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  • Writer's pictureBen West

A Brief History of Palazzo Gondi in Florence

What is Palazzo Gondi?

Palazzo Gondi is a Renaissance palace with famous artistic links that was built for wealthy Florentine merchant Giuliano Gondi.

Palazzo Gondi

Palazzo Gondi History

Though not one of Florence’s most well-known palaces, this stately building in the centre of the city is certainly one of the loveliest. It was designed in 1489 for Giuliano Gondi, a wealthy merchant who made his fortune in Naples. However, the palazzo’s original architect, Giuliano da Sangallo, didn’t manage to complete the project. At the end of the 17th century, the architect and sculptor Antonio Maria Ferri worked on the building, along with Baroque painter Matteo Bonechi. But it wasn’t fully completed until many years later – 1884, to be precise. Around the same time, the range of accommodation on the south side was demolished. It’s believed that Leonardo da Vinci lived in one of these dwellings and painted the Mona Lisa there.

Just a short walk from the Piazza della Signoria, Florence’s main square, the Palazzo Gondi was modelled upon contemporary palaces and used popular decorative elements from Florentine architecture, such as its handsome rusticated façade. However, Sangallo modified the use of these elements to make it one of the most popular Florentine buildings of its time. For example, the windows feature an innovative design: the stones are arranged in a radial pattern, each resembling the facet of a precious stone. The apertures on the second floor are slightly wider than the lower ones, to compensate for optical foreshortening, and the architect included cross motifs between the first-floor windows to draw the viewer’s eye.

The building’s beautiful Renaissance courtyard is another highlight. Though not particularly large, it bears ornate sculptural decoration, which contrasts nicely with the austerity of the façade. Framed with arches and Corinthian columns, it features an external staircase – a slightly unusual touch. In 1600, a pleasing fountain was added, deriving its water supply from the Boboli Gardens.

On the first floor is a large hall with a coffered ceiling. It’s dominated by a monumental fireplace with detailed stone carvings, designed by Sangallo. It’s surmounted by ancient symbols of strength: statues of Hercules and Samson. The walls display a collection of portraits, and adjacent to the hall are two living rooms with frescoes by Niccolò Contestabili and Matteo Bonechi.

The 15th-century rooftop loggia has wonderful panoramas of the city’s sights, including the Palazzo Vecchio, just metres away, the Duomo and other monuments. On the ground floor there’s a café bar, and in the vaulted ancient cellars a wine shop can be found, offering bottles produced by the Gondi family at their Bossi Estate. The Palazzo Gondi still belongs to descendants of its founding family.

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