Rocks and beauty at Villa La Petraia
The Medicean Villa La Petraia, in Florence, is concrete proof that Aristotle was not entirely right when, in his “Nicomachean Ethics”, he wrote, “nothing that exists by nature can form a habit contrary to its nature. For instance the stone which by nature moves downwards cannot be habituated to move upwards, not even if one tries to train it by throwing it up ten thousand times”.
Indeed, Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici – who became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1587 – succeeded in the feat considered impossible by the Greek philosopher: he deeply changed, elevating it, the nature of a 13th-century fort that was set in a rough and rocky landscape (hence the name “Petraia”, from the Italian ‘pietra’ meaning “rock” or “stone”). He made it his princely residence: it took years of hard work and patience, but in the end the stones gave forth this architectural beauty.
What now appears before our eyes is a prodigy that started blossoming in those years of the 1500s, and then was renewed in the following centuries: between the late 16th century and the early 17th, the central courtyard of the structure – the real heart of the villa – was decorated with beautifully frescos by Cosimo Daddi and by Il Volterrano; the inner rooms were elegantly furnished with accessories from the 18th and 19th centuries, and adorned with wonderful works of art; formal gardens were added overlooking the city, and an English-style one in the back.
Moroccan writer, Driss Chraïbi once wrote that “patience can make stones blossom”. He was certainly right.