The Grand Ducal Kitchen
After moving the Grand Ducal residence to Pitti Palace permanently, one of the first refurbishment works carried out under Ferdinand I de’ Medici’s reign was the construction of new kitchens, undertaken in 1588 in order to dismantle the former premises located within the monumental courtyard. The new building portion was realized outside the Palace, to which it was connected through a short covered bridge at the height of the first floor, as it is clearly depicted in the lunette painted by Justus Utens at the end of the 16 th century. Works were accomplished in 1599 in view of the forthcoming wedding between Maria de’ Medici, the Grand Duke Francesco I’s daughter, and the King of France Henry IV. The sumptuous banquet took place in Palazzo Vecchio on the evening of 5 October, 1600 and wedding feasts went on the following days at Pitti Palace.
Now the only preserved room of the 16th century architectural nucleus is the “Court Kitchen”, as it was recorded in the account books of construction works, namely a cooking space to prepare meals for the Grand Dukes’ court and their guests. In the 17th century plans of the Palace designed by Giacinto Maria Marmi, Keeper of the Medicean Wardrobe, the kitchen is defined as “secret” in the literal sense of secluded. Later on, during the Habsburg-Lorraine period, with the addition of new ovens and hoods in the fashionable sky blue colour of the time, it took the name of “Royal Kitchen”.
The dominant kitchen component is the impressive fireplace presenting an architrave made of a jack arch in oblique ashlars and a hood constructed around 1598-1599, presumably after a project by Bernardo Buontalenti. The fireplace hood, which ends with an elegant chimney on top of the roof, is painted in a vivid red contrasting with
the pale colour of the walls. The surface between ovens and the hood of a fireplace dating to the Habsburg-Lorraine period is covered with ornamental tiles decorated with a blue floral pattern, probably produced by the Ginori factory. In order to recreate the whole decoration, ancient tiles have been restored, while the missing ones have been replaced with new tiles realized by imitating the original pattern and distinguishable for their creamcoloured field. The present arrangement of the room also displays a series of kitchen tools – such as pots, baking pans and copper pudding moulds of different sizes, along with wooden mortars with their pestles and brass ladles – all coming from the Wardrobe of Pitti Palace and still used after the Italian National Unification with the transformation of the Palace into the Savoia royal residence.
These tools recall the ambiance of well-equipped kitchen premises thoroughly responding to the court’s needs. Normally used to store wine and oil, the large earthenware jars have been unexpectedly found inside the vaulted ceilings of the Palace as masonry building elements.
The King's Apartment
The rooms that lie along the right side of the palace facade are known as the “Royal Apartments”. In the second half of the 17th century, these were the private rooms
of the Grand Prince Ferdinando (son of the Grand Duke Cosimo III). Here he assembled his impressive collection of Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces.
After the Restoration (1815), the Apartments were enlarged and completely redecorated and refurnished according to the taste of the Hapsburg-Lorraine Grand-Dukes, who ruled Tuscany after the Medici family died out (1737).
When Florence became the capital of the newly founded kingdom of Italy (1865-1870), the Pitti Palace was chosen by King Vittorio Emanuele II of the Savoy to be the new royal palace. Later still, Umberto I and his wife Margherita introduced some furniture and precious works of art from the “Palazzo Ducale” in Parma.