Cosimo I dei Medici chose this Palazzo as home of his family. Palazzo Pitti was home also to the Houses of Lorraine and Savoy.
Now the Palazzo houses many large collections of paintings and sculptures, decorative art objects, porcelain and a museum of costumes. I includes the Boboli Gardens, one of the most well-known Italian-style gardens.
Housed in the Palazzo Pitti’s 18th-century Palazzina della Meridiana, the Costume Gallery has about 6,000 clothes, theatrical costumes and accessories, making it one of the world’s most important fashion museums. The exhibits, which change every two years, comprise a wide selection of clothes from the 18th to the 20th centuries. They are displayed on a rotating basis in order to ensure their preservation and to illustrate individual collections in their entirety.
The Palatine Gallery and the Royal Apartments occupy the whole of Palazzo Pitti’s piano nobile. The gallery was established in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by the Lorraine, who hung a mass of artworks, principally from the Medici collections begun around 1620, in the reception rooms.
There are works by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Pietro da Cortona and other Renaissance and 17th-century artists from Italy and elsewhere in Europe. The walls of the rooms are plastered with paintings, in keeping with the tradition of 17th-century picture galleries: they are not arranged chronologically or by school, but reflect the personal taste of the collectors.
There is a fine Madonna and Child by Filippo Lippi, some of Raphael’s most famous paintings, including the so-called Madonna del Granduca and La Velata, a Young Saint John the Baptist by Andrea del Sarto, Titian’s La Bella and portraits by Veronese and Tintoretto. The Royal Apartments consist of fourteen rooms in the right wing of the palace, formerly the private residence of the ruling families, and are furnished with furniture, trappings and artworks ranging from the 16th to 19th centuries.
The Medici were the first to take an interest in the gardens, establishing the model of the Italian-style garden that became an example for many European courts. The avenues and vegetation were laid out in a rational, geometric order and the gardens were then embellished with grottos, statues and fountains. Opened to the public in 1766, the Boboli Gardens can justifiably be regarded as an open-air museum: of particular interest are the Roman statues and those of Renaissance sculptors like Baccio Bandinelli and Giambologna; the Amphitheatre, where court spectacles were held; and the Grotta del Buontalenti, where Michelangelo’s Prisoners once stood (now replaced by copies).
The collection comprises berlin and other carriages used at court in the 18th and 19th centuries, plus old horse harnesses. It is open by appointment only, until a suitable home is found for it in the former Medici stables.
The Porcelain Museum is in the 18th-century Palazzina del Cavaliere at the top of the Boboli Gardens, in the middle of the Rose Garden. It houses collections of table porcelain once belonging to the succession of rulers who occupied Palazzo Pitti, with representative selections of Italian and European production ranging from the Doccia Manufactory (founded by the Ginori family) to the porcelain of Sèvres and Meissen. Of particular interest is the dinner service produced in Sèvres in 1809–10 for Elisa Baciocchi, a gift from her brother, Emperor Napoleon.