Italy is a country rich in history, art and culture, but also in natural and scenic beauty. Among the many wonders that can be admired in the Bel Paese, there is one that perhaps not everyone knows, but that deserves a visit: the Giant of Pratolino, an extraordinary sculpture from the sixteenth century that stands in the Medici Park of Pratolino, a few kilometers from Florence.
In this article we will tell you the story and the curiosities of this colossus of the Tuscan Apennines, that will leave you speechless.
The history of the Giant
The Giant of Pratolino is the work of the famous Flemish sculptor Giambologna, pseudonym of Jean de Boulogne, considered the greatest sculptor of the sixteenth century after Michelangelo. The Giant was made between 1579 and 1580 by order of Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who commissioned it as part of the decoration of his villa of Pratolino, a sumptuous country residence where he devoted himself to rest and distractions with his lover Bianca Cappello.
The villa was surrounded by a large park, full of fountains, caves, water games and allegorical statues, among which stood out the Giant, which represented the Apennines, the mountain range that crosses central Italy. The Giant was 14 meters high and had inside a hexagonal cave where there was a staircase that led to the head of the statue. From here you could admire the effect of the light that entered through the eyes illuminating the cave. Outside the statue was decorated with sponges and calcareous concretions, from which water poured into the pool below.
The dragon that the Giant crushes with his foot was a seventeenth-century addition by Giovan Battista Foggini.
The fate of the villa and the park
The villa and the park of Pratolino had a short and troubled life. After the death of Francesco I and Bianca Cappello in 1587, the residence passed to his son Ferdinando I, who however did not care much about it. In the following centuries the villa was neglected and looted by various owners who succeeded each other.
In 1811 the Lorraine demolished most of the original villa to build a smaller and more modern one. In 1872 the property was bought by the Russian family of Demidoff, who restored it and gave it its current name of Villa Demidoff.
In 1988 the villa and the park were bought by the Region of Tuscany and by the Municipality of Florence, who started a long process of recovery and enhancement.
The restoration of the Giant
The Giant of Pratolino was the only work by Giambologna to survive the destruction of the original villa. However he also suffered damage from time and neglect. Over the centuries the statue was covered by vegetation and moss, losing much of its original beauty.
In 2015 an important restoration work was started, lasting three years, which brought back the Giant to its ancient splendor. The restoration involved both the internal and external structure of the statue, eliminating water infiltration, cracks, stains and encrustations. In addition, the water games and lights that made the Giant even more impressive were restored.
The Medici Park of Pratolino today
Today the Medici Park of Pratolino is a protected natural area, which is part of the National Park of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The park covers about 400 hectares and hosts a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna.
In the park you can also admire other works of art, such as the Fountain of Mugnone, the Cave of Cupid, the Monument to Paolo Demidoff and the Meridian of Peace.
The park is open to the public from April to October and offers different possibilities of visit and activity. You can walk along the marked trails, go hiking by bike or horseback, practice sports such as orienteering or adventure park, or participate in cultural and educational events. The park is easily reachable from Florence by public or private transport.
Visiting the Giant of Pratolino means taking a trip into the history, art and nature of Italy. The Giant is a unique testimony of the genius of Giambologna and the magnificence of the Medici, but also a symbol of the beauty and strength of the Tuscan Apennines. The Giant is a work that amazes and enchants for its size, for its details and for its scenic effects. The Giant is an experience to live and share with those who love Italy and its wonders.