The Florentine family of the Medici exert a fascination undimmed by distance and time, reaching us today from the depths of the Renaissance. Their role in the development of Tuscany is fundamental and unquestionable, but they are better known for their intrigues, power games and artistic patronage, themes which have spawned an enormous literature – more or less romanticised – and fixed them in public consciousness. This is the case with the TV period-drama The Medici: Masters of Florence, which first aired on RAI in 2016 and has attracted a huge audience. It has seen much of Tuscany used as a film set, extraordinary locations which undoubtedly deserve a visit in the flesh.
The famous ‘cradle of the Renaissance’ is the co-star of everything that concerns this famous dynasty, and its glory had to be brought fully to the screen. It is here that much of the first season was shot, particularly in the Palazzo Vecchio and the Basilica of San Lorenzo. Brunelleschi’s dome also stars in all its magnificence, albeit with some historical inaccuracy, the series opening with its construction.
Home to the Nobile red wine, this town is known for its elegant and well-preserved historical centre. To The Medici it lent its Piazza Grande, an exceptional setting dominated by its Palazzo Comunale which, built at the behest of Cosimo dei Medici, perhaps unsurprisingly resembles Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. The Cathedral, which is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and which appears in a number of scenes, is found in exactly the same piazza.
Pienza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for obvious reasons: a magnificent example of an ideal city, it represents a unique architectural project, fully adhering to the precepts of the Renaissance. The cameras stuck mainly to the Palazzo Piccolomini, which stood in for the similar Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence. The Palazzo Comunale also played a part in the series, as the Medici bank.
Declared as the 2017 Italian Capital of Culture, Pistoia is a place full of surprises, where history, modernity, art and nature come together. Various shots have immortalised Piazza Duomo, with its Romanesque Cathedral of San Zeno, while the Palazzo del Municipio played the role of the Albizi family residence.
The landscape of Val d’Orcia, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Tuscany’s iconic images and has not been neglected by the Medici scenographers. Various panoramas of the countryside come directly from the hills around San Quirico d’Orcia, among which the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta makes an appearance. Apart from the historical centre of San Quirico, the village of Bagno Vignoni also provides a few backdrops for the characters.
Visiting Volterra, one cannot but notice the similarities between the central Palazzo dei Priori and Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. The former, however, is actually the oldest civic building in Tuscany and it is here, in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Chamber of the Grand Council), that scenes are filmed involving the assembly of Florentine priors. The Etruscan Porta all’Arco also enjoyed its fifteen minutes of fame, masquerading as one of the gates of Florence, threatened by the forces of Duke Sforza.