While staying at Villa Boccella our lovely friend, Deb (not the same lovely Deb that lives in Launceston), escorted us on a day trip to Florence to share the wonders of a city she knows well. Without her, we never would have discovered Palazzo Davanzati. Built by the wealthy merchant Davizzi family in the 14th century, the palace was purchased by the Davanzati family in 1578, their coat of arms is proudly displayed on the façade.
They retained possession until 1838 after which the residence was divided into flats. In 1904, antique dealer Elia Volpi rescued, restored and furnished the property before opening it to the public as a museum in 1910. Ownership changed hands again in the 1920s and eventually the Italian state took over in 1951. The museum has undergone major restoration in recent years, the result is nothing short of spectacular. We entered into an internal courtyard, instantly boggled by the grandeur.
The rooms on the upper floors are arranged around the central courtyard, gazing upward the architecture resembles a labyrinthine puzzle.
We climbed the worn stone steps to the first floor
and entered the Great Hall, a room that would have been used for conducting business. The trapdoors in the floor in front of the windows open up to the loggia below so visitors can be identified before granting entry.
The intricate ceiling detail is stunning, though I wondered about the comfort of the furniture.
Water can be hauled to all floors from the private well in the courtyard via pitchers on a pulley system.
On the same floor, the walls of the Parrot Room are decorated with a geometric patchwork design, motifs of the birds are painted in the lattice separating the blocks.
The huge fireplace is adorned with the red and white Davizzi coat of arms with emblems on either side representing the Ridolfo and Alberti families who married into the Davizzi family.
The frescoed wall of the adjacent bedroom incorporates coats of arms of families allied with the Davizzi. The beautiful bed cover is a copy of the Guicciardini Quilt, the only known surviving example of medieval quilts. The original, made in Sicily in the second half of the 14th century, resides in The Bargello less than a kilometre down the road.
Even though it would have been a luxury at the time, the ensuite bathroom is small and not conducive to a good long soak.
There is a room displaying sewing and spinning implements as well as exquisite examples of lacework.
Another room exhibits furniture from the 14th to 19th century: delicate porcelain, timber cabinets, chairs and storage boxes fill the space.
A small water closet hides behind a very substantial timber door.
Obviously, there is indoor plumbing, these appear to be breather vents
and the drainage pipe snakes its way down the internal courtyard wall.
On the second floor, the frescoes in the most sumptuous bedroom are inspired by the tale of the Chatelaine de Vergi (I love this version, I was enthralled), a tragic medieval story of friendship, love, loyalty, betrayal and the consequences of all the aforementioned. An unusual choice for a marital bedchamber or perhaps a constant reminder of the benefits of fidelity?
The addition of the ensuite bathroom was again unexpected.
There is another bedroom on the third floor, as well as the kitchen, I don’t know why I haven’t got any photos of them. Interestingly, the kitchen is on the top floor to avoid cooking smells in the lower living areas and contain damage in case of a fire. Just when I thought we’d seen everything, a circular painting caught my eye. The timber platter is a birthing salver, circa 1450, originally used in Florence to bring food to pregnant women and then became symbolic gifts for a successful birth. The cherubs are engaging in a game of civettino where the players have to maintain a certain distance, the right foot of one touching the left of the other. The aim is to avoid being slapped by your opponent, although ‘slapping’ is probably not the most appropriate term to explain this depiction.