A Wanderer in Florence eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 408 pages of information about A Wanderer in Florence.

Although Cosimo made so bloody a beginning he was the first imaginative and thoughtful administrator that Florence had had since Lorenzo the Magnificent.  He set himself grimly to build upon the ruins which the past forty and more years had produced; and by the end of his reign he had worked wonders.  As first he lived in the Medici palace, but after marrying a wealthy wife, Eleanora of Toledo, he transferred his home to the Signoria, now called the Palazzo Vecchio, as a safer spot, and established a bodyguard of Swiss lancers in Orcagna’s loggia, close by. [3] Later he bought the unfinished Pitti palace with his wife’s money, finished it, and moved there.  Meanwhile he was strengthening his position in every way by alliances and treaties, and also by the convenient murder of Lorenzino, the Brutus who had rid Florence of Alessandro ten years earlier, and whose presence in the flesh could not but be a cause of anxiety since Lorenzino derived from an elder son of the Medici, and Cosimo from a younger.  In 1555 the ancient republic of Siena fell to Cosimo’s troops after a cruel and barbarous siege and was thereafter merged in Tuscany, and in 1570 Cosimo assumed the title of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and was crowned at Rome.

Whether or not the common accusation against the Medici as a family, that they had but one motive—­mercenary ambition and self-aggrandisement—­is true, the fact remains that the crown did not reach their brows until one hundred and seventy years from the first appearance of old Giovanni di Bicci in Florentine affairs.  The statue of Cosimo I in the Piazza della Signoria has a bas-relief of his coronation.  He was then fifty-one; he lived but four more years, and when he died he left a dukedom flourishing in every way:  rich, powerful, busy, and enlightened.  He had developed and encouraged the arts, capriciously, as Cellini’s “Autobiography” tells us, but genuinely too, as we can see at the Uffizi and the Pitti.  The arts, however, were not what they had been, for the great period had passed and Florence was in the trough of the wave.  Yet Cosimo found the best men he could—­Cellini, Bronzino, and Vasari—­and kept them busy.  But his greatest achievement as a connoisseur was his interest in Etruscan remains and the excavations at Arezzo and elsewhere which yielded the priceless relics now at the Archaeological Museum.

With Cosimo I this swift review of the Medici family ends.  The rest have little interest for the visitor to Florence to-day, for whom Cellini’s Perseus, made to Cosimo I’s order, is the last great artistic achievement in the city in point of time.  But I may say that Cosimo I’s direct descendants occupied the throne (as it had now become) until the death of Gian Gastone, son of Cosimo III, who died in 1737.  Tuscany passed to Austria until 1801.  In 1807 it became French, and in 1814 Austrian again.  In 1860 it was merged in the Kingdom of Italy under the rule of the monarch who has given his name to the great new Piazza—­Vittorio Emmanuele.

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A Wanderer in Florence from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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