The Palantine Gallery at Palazzo Pitti

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The imposing Palazzo Pitti in Florence contains many treasures. An overwhelming number of them are at the Palantine Gallery, the royal apartments from Medici to the Lorraine to the Savoy families, and briefly was the seat of the Italian king when Florence was the capital of the newly minted Italy.

In short, the Palantine Gallery is a condensed and an intense historical imprint of centuries of unfathomable wealth, power and international connoisseurship. The decor, collection and valuable objects are displayed as they would be when the monarchs were living there – all jumbled up and arranged to translate the sense of spectacle of riches the palace used to be.

It has, among other things, the largest collection of paintings by Raphael, important pieces by Titian, A Sleeping Cupid by Carravagio and a powerful Rubens. The portraits of reigning families preside over luxuriously draped walls, whilst each ceiling is a masterpiece of frescoes or grisaille or stucco. The floors change from terracota tiles inlaid with stones to hand-painted ceramics. The walls are filled with hidden doors through which servants and monarchs would make their escapes, and tables and cabinets are made of rare ebony and pietro duro.

To sum it up, this is the splendour at its peak. Go in the late afternoon when the crowds are at their ebb, and if you are lucky it will be just you, a few Raphaels and a glamorous Florentine elderly gallery assistant in the halls of Saturn, Ulysses and Prometheus.

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