Saturday morning, I strolled up to a five story building in the heart of Florence. Tucked just to the side of Palazzo della Republica, this street was weirdly peaceful. Very few pedestrians, no street vendors and no beeping taxis anywhere in sight. There were, however, a small bunch of B. I. F. history of art students huddled outside. I was joining these guys on a live lecture/tour around this rather imposing building.
It may help to actually name the place. This is Palzzo Davanzati, built in the mid-14th century for the wealthy Davizzi family, later bought by the Davanzati family in 1578. It’s an interesting example of a trecento palazzo.
I love this place. As soon as you walk into the building, you come face to face with the most amazing entrance hall. This giant staircase spirals round the walls, three flights up, all the way to the window-lit ceiling. My initial thought was Harry Potter. I am in Harry Potter (you know the famous moving staircases in Hogwarts). The architecture of this building is crazy, and something you don’t imagine when you think of the thirteen hundreds. I know there are hundreds of fantastic buildings from this time, or that predate it, but the simplicity of this Palazzo was almost modern.
The design may be simple, but the decoration certainly isn’t. Some of the rooms are covered in fantastically bright frescoes (the top image below), which run wall to wall, and include all number of fabulous characters. Their colour is really something else given their age. Every room includes interesting objects, my particular favourite being a rather cheekily painted birthing tray (it involves cherubs and nudity, childish sense of humour, I know). The entrance way may be giant, but the whole building actually seems liveable. You can easily picture having family dinners, or good-sized Christmas parties there. Fitting the tree in certainly wouldn’t be a problem.
The best part about the whole experience was having someone who really loves the history of this place lead us around. Our lecturer was so enthusiastic and knowledgable, that it brought these old spaces to life. We could imagine the family moving and living in each room. This Palazzo doesn’t have too much information for visitors, so this really came in handy.