Love is one of the driving forces in great art. How many times in history have we come across works of art dictated by the desire to celebrate a romance or to impress a loved one? The Medici Park of Pratolino (Parco Mediceo di Pratolino), in the town of Vaglia, in Tuscany is no exception, and what remains of today tells the story of a passionate and turbulent romance, that propels us back to the mid-sixteenth century, when Francis 1st Medici bought the estate in 1568, entrusting the building works of the beautiful villa to the multi-talented Bernardo Buontalenti.
The villa and the park, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were indeed dedicated to Francis 1st Medici’s lover, and later wife, Bianca Cappello, and everything you encounter was designed, with no expense spared, to evoke the fantasy world of the imagination, through ornamental water features alternated with ancient statues, paths and grottos, to immortalize the guilty passion, which blossomed from two failed marriages. A colossal passion, as is the size of the colossal structure, the symbol of the Medici Park at Pratolino: the Appennine Colossus the masterpiece of the Flemish sculptor Giambologna.
And if most of the structures have been destroyed over time (the house no longer exists), or have been stolen, the Giant is still there, fresh from a recent restoration, to welcome the many visitors, towering over everyone at 14 meters in height. A sculpture which has a saying attached to it that runs, “Giambologna made the Appennino / but he is sorry he did so in Pratolino“, to emphasize that the same work of art, perhaps built in the center of Florence, would certainly have raised a much greater clamor, and would have been celebrated with several honors. Even as it is, the park and its Colossus still remain a place that is well worth a visit, which is full of surprises.
Inside the statue there are rooms, decorated caves and internal corridoors, as well as two working fountains and a room inside the head, which was lit by sunlight coming in through the eyes and could hold a small orchestra. Through the mouth of the serpent, under the left hand of the Giant, a stream of water flows down into the pool below.
Today only a few elements remain of all the original architecutral magic of the park. However, they are sufficient to conjour up a romantic and visionary atmosphere for the visitor. As confirmed by the director Gennaro Giliberti, when asked why this is remembered in history as the “park of wonders“: “It would be enough to take a look at the famous “lunette” by the painter Justus Utens from 1600 to get a sense of the wonder that would have enveloped the visitor of the time, or read the famous “Journal de voyage en Italie” by de Montaigne: an impressive carousel of sculptures of famous personages, animals, gods and epic heroes; grottos, fountains and waterworks; theaters of propelled automatons powered by water, hydraulic equipment that reproduced music sweet, automatic machines that reproduce the birds singing; “Magnificent inventions”, “miraculous works”, “stupendous artifices”, which Buontalenti was able to create with unparalleled mastery. Not surprisingly, the park of Pratolino was one of the most imitated parks in the world. ”
In closing, we leave you with a 360 ° navigable photo of the Fountain of Jupiter, another of the wonders of the park. Click HERE.