Friday, January 14, 2011

Medieval Living - Palazzo Davanzati

One of my favourite places to visit in Florence is the Palazzo Davanzati, which is now a museum, open 8.15am-1.50pm, Tuesday to Saturday (and on alternating Mondays and Sundays).The Davizzi family, wealthy merchants in the late fourteenth century, built their palace in Florence which was then bought by the Davanzati family in the late sixteenth century. Visiting the palazzo is a fantastic step back into the golden merchant age of the city when the Florentine business men held a hegemony of power in the wool manufacturing and banking sectors in Europe. The Florentine palaces should be viewed as a physical display of the family's power, wealth and desire for longevity in an age when the European continent was emerging from centuries of 'darkness' and forming city-states, governments and international trade centres and when the individual was returning to be a central focus of study and importance. Here in the Davanzati palace one can see the beginnings of domestic activity of the modern age  with a dumb waiter system enabling fresh water from their private well to be taken easily to all five floors, elegant reception rooms, dining rooms and even private bathrooms. All is arranged around a central courtyard which lights the palace and the rain water is collected through the holes on the stone floor in a cistern below for domestic use, such as cleaning. The private life of the family starts on the first floor, the walls of the main rooms and the exquisite bedrooms were covered with frescoes and tapestries under which, in winter, would be placed fur for greater insulation. Fireplaces are in nearly every room and the kitchen, on the top floor, has all the necessary tools for some good Tuscan cooking, such as the grain grinder for bread making , the metal apparatus for turning polenta and the iron spit with pully in order to rotate the roast suckling pig! The palace is intact from the 1300's, business took place on the ground floor and the front doors of the palace date to this period. If they were being attacked there are trapdoors on the first floor placed directly over the three entrance doors in order to pour down boiling water and tar to stop the enemy advancing any further. Don't miss the ceramic painted shoes that were used as hand warmers displayed on the second floor and the little room off the main reception room on the first floor dedicated to lace making, fascinating.

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