A few kilometers from Florence, there is the green oasis of the Parco di Pratolino. Among meadows, woods and ponds, one of the largest parks in Tuscany, known as Villa Demidoff, the Pratolino Park has a very intriguing history that initially leads it to be a model for the European Mannerist gardens, a high example of excellence artistic and technical, then destined to decline and then transformed into the more modern landscape of the early nineteenth century, without losing the poignant charm of the extraordinary lost complex.
Parco di Pratolino History
In the year 1568, Grand Duke Francesco I de 'Medici bought the Pratolino estate to have a magnificent villa built by Bernardo Buontalenti, with artificial caves, machinery and artifices that saw the presence of nature, art and science. The entire complex, completed around 1581, appeared as a fantastic garden in which there were also works by other artists such as Cellini, Giambologna, Bandinelli, Cioli, Ammannati and many ancient works from the collections Medicee, and this is preserved until the death of the last Grand Duke Gian Gastone. The park was defined by the contemporaries "the garden of wonders".
In 1737, with the coming to power in Tuscany of the new rulers, the Lorraines, the Park was left in a state of neglect for 80 years and then structurally changed in 1820 by the engineer J.Frietsch, who followed the romantic canons of the era. In 1824 the Medici Villa was demolished because it was unsafe, along with other buildings. The only enlargement work of this period was the construction of a panoramic lookout point, the Montili Casino.
In 1872 the heirs of the last Grand Duke, Leopold II of Lorraine, sold the property to the Russian Prince Pavel Demidoff who transformed the building of the Medici Paggeria into what is today known as Villa Demidoff (the original one was said to have been destroyed along with the its amazing hydraulic games), extending it on the right side with the construction of the Red Hall where he had all his collections of works of art transported. The Demidoff property remained until the death of Princess Maria (1955). The property passed to his nephew, Paolo Karageorvic, prince of Yugoslavia, who in 1969 ceded land and buildings to a real estate company in Rome and auctioned the furnishings and furnishings of the family, further dispersing the inherited heritage.
In 1981, what remained of the estate (155 hectares) was purchased by the Province of Florence (now Metropolitan City of Florence), which subtracted it from the risk of subdivision and speculation.
The Chapel of the ancient Medici Park has been preserved: built by Buontalenti in 1580, the Great Aviary, the Bath or Peschiera della Maschera, the Giant of the Apennines by Giambologna, the Grotta del Mugnone, the Grotta di Cupido, the Scuderie and a part of the Gamberaie pools.
Since 2013, the Giardino di Pratolino is inserted in the serial site of the Tuscan Medici Villas and Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mediceo Park of Pratolino is open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays with hours 10.00-20.00 and with free admission.