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Bizzaria: the great and secret failure of the Médicis

The name Médici immediately evokes another: the Renaissance, which implies patronage, art, beauty, talent. What I do know is the interest this family had for citrus fruit and botany in general.

In the marvelous Florence of the sixteenth century, capital of beauty and the Arts, imposed by the family that dominated it, there was also a less brilliant and undesirable side: the smell.

The Médici demanded excellence in all areas, to make their greatness shine even more and the fact that travelers who visited their capital had to put up with bad smells emanating from the fetid waters that came out of each house, because sewers were not yet on the agenda, bothered them enormously.

Inspired by the fashion for exotic fruit which were beginning to arrive from the Far East – they already had a magnificent collection of lemon trees – the Médici commissioned the most famous agronomists of the time to create a new fruit, which was to have all the marvelous qualities of the new citrus fruit arriving from the East, but it had to be uniquely and exclusively native to Florence, and have the ability to perfume the streets of the city and embalm the gardens of their palaces. A citrus fruit that could be called a great masterpiece, an equal to their precious collections.

The idea, initially received with enthusiasm by the zealous agronomists of the court, then became a real headache and a great disappointment. Something had gone wrong.

The numerous grafts and hybridizations based on ancient texts by Plinio il Vecchio, Varrone and Virgilio, had produced only one species of creature which was called "bizzare", a little bit citron, a little bit lemon, a little bit orange and without really meeting the specifications of the new citrus fruit. Plus they were ugly. With a rough surface full of bumps, of an orangish color, they possessed greenish stripes and odd shapes.

The Medici rejected this new creation and dismissed the agronomists, authors of this great disaster.

The streets of Florence kept their bad smell, until the creation of the sewers

The strange citrus fruit has survived secretly to the present day. It is found in a few rare gardens and is simply called “bizzaria”.

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