The Bardi Family .arrived in Florence in the eleventh century, originally from Ruballa near Bagno a Ripoli, and obtained citizenship during the twelfth century, devoting themselves to the commercial activity and later banking. An important figure was Bartolo de 'Bardi, one of the first priors of Florence, in 1282.
In 1332 Piero di Gualterotto Bardi bought the possessions north of Prato from the Counts Alberti for 10,000 gold florins, in particular the castle of Vernio, giving rise to the noble branch of the Bardi di Vernio.
Simone de 'Bardi, called Mone, married Beatrice Portinari, daughter of a banker, who was just a teenager. This was the Beatrice who inspired Dante Alighieri the Divine Comedy. It is very recent the discovery, by the scholar Domenico Savini, of new documents in the Bardi archive on Beatrice and her husband. Among these is a deed of 1280, where Mone de 'Bardi ceded some land to his brother Cecchino with the consent of his wife Bice (as Beatrice was called), which at the time was about fifteen years old. A second document of 1313, when Beatrice was supposed to be already dead, cites the marriage between a daughter of Simone, Francesca, and Francesco di Pierozzo Strozzi. This happened through the intercession of the uncle Cecchino, but it is not specified if the mother had been Beatrice or the second wife of Simone, Bilia (Sibilla) by Puccio Deciaioli. Other known sons of Simone are Bartolo and Gemma, who was married to Ardingo de 'Medici.
In Florence the Bardi family had their own houses on the street named after them, the Via de 'Bardi in Oltrarno, in particular in the Canigiani palace, originally Palazzo de' Bardi. In 1427, 60 family hearths belonging to the Bardi resided in Florence, 45 of whom lived in the Oltrarno district. This figure gives the idea of family cohesion, which was also useful in business.
The Bardi family had several rivals. In May 1345 there was an armed conflict with the Peruzzi and there were many clashes with the Buondelmonti . In 1342, 130 adult males of the Baldi family swore in front of a notary the peace with the Buondelmonti family.
The antimagnat revolt of 1343 struck their family, which had its own residence assaulted and plundered by the crowd. Two years later (1345) King Edward III of England refused to give them back their debts for the Hundred Years War by forcing their company to declare bankruptcy along with other major companies, such as Peruzzi, and triggering a trial in chain that seriously affected the Florentine economy. Giovanni Villani wrote that the amount of gold florins loaned to the English monarch "was worth a kingdom": the historian himself, who had taken part in the loan agreement, paid the consequences and was imprisoned for a period.
At their most splendor their company was one of the richest in Europe. It had numerous branches in Italy (Ancona, Aquila, Bari, Barletta, Castello di Castro, Genoa, Naples, Orvieto, Palermo, Pisa, Venice) and throughout the continent (Avignon, Barcelona, Bruges, Cyprus, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Mallorca, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Rhodes, Seville, Tunis) . With the Peruzzi and the Acciaiuoli they had in fact the monopoly of the pontifical finances. Boccaccio's father worked in the Naples branch.
To give an example of the efficiency of their "holding", in 1336 they received from their branch of Avignon the assignment by Pope Benedict XII to send to the Armenians, assaulted by the Turkish populations, the fee of ten thousand gold florins in wheat. Said fact: April 10 arrived the order, a few weeks later the Italian agents of the Bardi bought the wheat on the squares of Naples and Bari through their branches, and before the end of the month ships loaded with provisions already set sail towards the Black Sea .
To understand the reasons for such a sudden collapse, an analysis of the structure of the commercial company is necessary. Each branch, on paper, was considered as an independent agency that had the right to enter into business, set prices and self-regulation. All these agencies, however, were linked by a solidarity agreement which, therefore, meant that they were not too exposed to the vagaries of the individual markets and could work in a coordinated way. Such an organizational model evidently offered considerable flexibility to the structure which, however, was seen to be protected in all its parts by internal solidarity. It was also possible to decide the points of sale of goods according to the various local market values, thus maximizing profits. This was the strength of the company, but also its weakness.
In the event that a branch went bankrupt with a deep red, in fact, the other sites should have helped to write off the balance sheets. This, however, could lead to a dangerous domino effect having as the result the bankruptcy of all the company's subsidiaries. It was what happened in 1343.
The family fortunes did not return to the splendor of the past, but the Bards still maintained a certain importance in Florentine life. They belonged to the Art of Calimala and to that of Lana.
From the Bardi di Vernio born Contessina de 'Bardi, wife of Cosimo de' Medici and grandmother of Lorenzo the Magnificent. In 1487 they bought a building in via de 'Benci and in 1576, thanks to a donation of Francesco I de' Medici, they returned to the palace in via de 'Bardi, after it was confiscated by Pietro Capponi for his support of the Pucci conspiracy against Cosimo I de 'Medici.
Among the accounts of Vernio we also remember Giovanni, founder of the Camerata de 'Bardi, who took the name from his family.
The Bards tenaciously held their estates at Vernio opposing the domination of the Florentine Republic first and then the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, maintaining a feudal regime well beyond the modern era. Only with the Vienna Congress of 1815 was abolished any feudal jurisdiction and the county of Vernio was united legally to the Grand Duchy.
The main family died out in 1810 with the death of Count Pier Maria, and the family property merged with those of the Guicciardini family.
The family died out definitively in the count Alberto Bardi Serzelli count of Vernio who died in 1964 and now rests in the Chapel of his Fattoria di Altomena in Pelago, Florence. Husband of the nob. Maria Crevenna left no children and the estate passed to her sister Maria married to the Marquis Giulio Cattaneo Della Volta of Genoa. The father of Alberto and Maria was Ferdinando de 'Bardi who left important historical and moral writings. Alberto Bardi lived in his historic Palazzo Bardi in via de 'Benci 5 in Florence, which in the 16th century had hosted the Camerata de' Bardi. He left part of the very important picture gallery at the Uffizi. Among other things, he had the right to designate the chaplain of the Bardi Chapel of Giotto in Santa Croce.
Bardi is a surname still widespread, especially in Tuscany, in eastern Liguria, in Romagna and, from the mid-nineteenth century, in Sicily and Sardinia.
The family had numerous patrons. The most famous is certainly the Bardi Chapel in Santa Croce, frescoed by Giotto, but in the same temple they had up to four chapels, including the Bardi di Vernio Chapel frescoed by Maso di Banco. Also their chapel in Santa Maria Novella, where the Madonna Rucellai by Duccio di Buoninsegna and frescoes referring to the Pseudo Dalmasio were also prestigious. For one of their altars in Santo Spirito they painted the so-called Madonna Bardi at Botticelli, now at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin (about 1485).
They also had those in Santa Lucia dei Magnoli, in Santa Lucia in Terzano, in the church of San Marcellino, in the church of Faboro, in the church of Ricorboli, in the Badia a Settimo, in Santa Maria a Ruballa, in the church of San Lorenzo a Montisoni, in the church of Cristoforo a Strada, in the oratory of the Santissima Annunziata of Bagno a Ripoli; from the latter comes the Annunciation of Palazzo Barberini by Filippo Lippi, in which Alessandro di Andrea and Lorenzo di Ilarione de 'Bardi are portrayed. They founded the Santa Marta monastery in Florence.
They also supported the destroyed church of Santa Maria Soprarno (called "Santa Maria dei Bardi"); near it also possessed a tower and a loggia.
Palazzo Busini-Bardi is attributed to Brunelleschi and dated to before 1420; they also owned and held in Lappeggi, Mondeggi, Rignano, Morgiano, Strada in Chianti. In San Donato in Collina they subsidized a "small batch". In Fiesole they had the land on which Villa Il Ventaglio was built and the hospital of San Girolamo; they were also the building that they sold to Cosimo the Elder and that became the Villa Medici of Fiesole. In the Palazzo Guicciardini Bardi in Florence, in the sixteenth century the family businesses were frescoed by artists from the school of Bernardino Poccetti.