All you need to know to plan a visit to Pratolino’s Park and Villa Demidoff, one of the historical Medici’s Villas in Tuscany now Unesco World Heritage Site.
if you are looking for a pleasant and family friendly day trip from Florence, then I recommend you consider a day at Villa Demidoff and Pratolino’s Park.
The Park is a historical site on the Tuscan hills, just outside of Florence, and it is a beautiful outdoor space with interesting and unique features.
Originally an elegant and extravagant estate, the park is now listed as Unesco World Heritage Site and it is a nice place to visit on a spring or fall day, when you can take in the beauty of its nature and it peculiar sculptures. This is all you need to know to plan a visit.
Why visit Pratolino’s Park and Villa Demidoff
Pratolino’s Park and Villa Demidoff are one of the 12 historical villas originally belonging to the Medici family that are now listed among the UNESCO sites in Tuscany.
These villas all date back between the XV and XVII century and are important as they represent a unique type of landscaping built that blends in architecture, nature and science.
They are a great example of the Humanism approach to architecture and nature, characteristic of that time, and they are beautiful to see as well as interesting for history lovers (Pienza is another interesting example of the same approach).
Pratolino’s Park in particular has gone though several vicissitudes and destructions and is only partially arrived to us it its original form.
However, it is still a place of great beauty and has an impressie scupture of a giant, the so called ‘Appenine Colossus’ that I believe is, alone, worth seeing.
A brief history of Pratolino’s Park and Villa Demidoff
The project for the construction of Pratolino’s Park dates back to the XVI century and it connected to the personality of Francesco I de’ Medici, head of the important Medici family at the time and Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Francesco I wanted to create a ‘fairy tale’ villa for his second wife Bianca Cappello and assigned the job to architect Buontalenti, who delivered a park so extraordinary, contemporaries called it a ‘garden of wonders’.
The park used to have several buildings including an aviary, chapel and Paggeria, ponds, machines and sculptures however, it didn’t survive the death of its owners and, after the death of Bianca and Francesco I, got abandoned.
The park as we see it today, is due to the intervention of the Davidoff family, who took care of making it bigger and restored, in parts.
What to see in Pratolino’s Park
Pratolino’s Park is a large open space. I believe these are its highlights.
Pratolino’s Giant, the Appennine Colossus
The Appennine Colossus or Colosso dell’Appennino, in Italian, is a colossal statue of a giant leaning over a pond inside the Park of Pratolino.
It is an incredible sight!
The giant is represented as a bearded man hunched over a fountain/pond and it is made of carefully crafter stone that give him a very human appearance yet allows it to blend flawlessly with its natural surrounding.
It is over 14 meters tall (over 45 ft!) and it looks as if it is about to stand up from the waters, dripping water and algae.
Originally, it was part of a much more complex creation, including a hypogeum and cave with moving sculptures, but even on its own, it is a truly impressive sight and a sculpture it will take a minute to take it, because of its size and make technique.
The Chapel by Buontalenti is the only building in Pratolino’s Park that got to us pretty much unaltered.
It was built in 1580 and it has a peculiar exagonal plan that gives it a very special appearance and feel. Its roof is a grey slate dome and its front is decorated with a lovely portico, which gives it a distinctive Florentine and Renaissance look.
The chapel lies at the tip of a a staircase and it isa surrounded by nature an trees, embodying perfectly the idea of architect and nature blending together that was at the basis of this project.
Pratolino’s Park Natural features
The other big reason to explore Pratolino’s Park are its beautigul natural features. The estate is vas and develops over the gentle hills surrounding Florence.
It has wonderful long pathway that allow you to be surrounded by plants and secular trees and also offers nice views over the countryside around yo. A visit are required a good bit of walking however, it doesn’t pose any accessibility issues and is suitable also for kids.
How to get to Pratolino’s Park and tips for visiting
Pratolino’s Park is a short drive out of Florence along Via Bolognese. The road up here is narrow and winding yet well kept and a large parking lot is just outside the Villa.
Access to the park is free however, there is a booth where they give you your entrance ticket and map to the area.
The park is accessible on foot and doesn’t require special footwear. Due to the significant walking involved however, I do recommend comfortable shoes for your visit. You can find my recommended shoes for Italy travel here.
If visiting in summer, please be advised that the park gets very hot and has several stretched of road in the sun: bring a sun hat and check our tips for what to pack for Italy in summer here.
The park is easy to enjoy with kids and it is stroller friendly. It also has a small playground for little ones. We find seeing the giant of Pratolino one of the coolest things to do in Italy with kids!
A cafeteria is available on site.
I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of Pratolino’s Park and it inspired you to visit. Safe travel planning!
This post was originally published in 2015 and has now been fully updates (Nov 2020).