The Palazzo Pitti, sometimes called the Pitti Palace, is a vast, mainly Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. The core of the present palazzo dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker. It was later bought by the Medici family in 1549: as the official residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, it was enlarged and enriched almost continually over the following three centuries.
In the 19th century, the palazzo, by then a great treasure house, was used as a power base by Napoleon I, and later served for a brief period as the principal royal palace of the newly united Italy. In the early 20th century, the palazzo together with its contents was given to the Italian people by the King Victor Emmanuel III, subsequently its doors were opened to the public to serve as one of Florence's largest art galleries. Today housing several major collections, in addition to those of the Medici family, it is fully open to the public.
The building was sold in 1549 by Buonaccorso Pitti, a descendant of Luca Pitti, to Eleonora of Toledo, the luxury-loving wife of Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici of Tuscany. It was now that land at the rear of the palazzo was acquired in order to create a large formal park, today known as the Boboli Gardens. The landscape architect employed for this was Niccolo Tribolo, who was quickly succeeded by Bartolommeo Ammanati. The original design of the gardens centred on an amphitheatre, behind the corps de logis of the palazzo, in which the classically inspired plays of Florentine playwrights such as Giovan Battista Cini were performed for the amusement of the cultivated Medici court, with elaborate sets designed by the court architect Baldassarre Lanci.
Following completion of the gardens, Ammanati turned his attentions to the palazzo itself, creating a large courtyard immediately behind the principal facade. This courtyard has heavy-banded rusticated stonework which was to be widely copied, most notably for the Parisian palais of Maria de' Medici, the Luxembourg. Ammanati also created what are known as the kneeling windows in the principal facade. These windows, probably so-called because with their classical pediments they resemble Prie dieux, replaced the earlier terminating entrances. In the 17th century, this facade was further extended to its present length by the father and son team of Giulio and Alfonso Parigi. During the 18th century, two perpendicular wings were constructed by the architect Giuseppe Ruggeri to enhance and stress the cour d'honneur, which is entered from the Via Romana. Sporadic lesser additions and alterations were made thereafter for many years under other rulers and architects.
The palazzo remained the Medici's principal residence until the fall of the dynasty in 1737, when it was taken over by the new Grand Dukes of Tuscany, the Austrian House of Lorraine. Their tenancy was briefly interrupted by Napoleon, who used the Pitti during his period of control over Italy.
When Tuscany passed from the House of Lorraine to the House of Savoy in 1860, the Plazzo Pitti was included. After the Risorgimento, when Florence was briefly the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II resided in the Pitti until 1871. His grandson, Vittorio Emanuele III, presented the Pitti to the nation in 1919. The palazzo and other buildings in the Boboli Gardens then became divided into five separate art galleries and a museum, housing not only many of its original contents, but priceless artifacts from many other collections acquired by the state. The 140 rooms open to the public are part of an interior which is in large part a later product than the original portion of the structure, mostly created in two phases, dating respectively from the 17th century and the early 18th century.