The citrus fruit of the Medici
In my family, the collector's craze has struck several generations over the last few centuries. Art objects, rare and antique pieces, furniture, paintings, statues
furniture, ancient coins, among others, my ancestors collected collected everything. Each generation brought a little of its own, accumulating into a enormous heritage that was finally bequeathed generously to the museums of Tuscany which today pass on this great testimony to us. But what few people know is that my family was one of the first to collect citrus fruits, especially in pots.
It is from the 15th century that they appear, more precisely the first garden
was created between 1455 and 1457 by Giovanni de' Medici, son of Cosimo il Vecchio (Como il Vecchio the Elder), in the Villa Medici in Fiesole, the first of its kind, inspired by the philosopher Leon Battista Alberti. These first citrus fruits were imported from Naples. Mainly bitter oranges (Citrus aurantium ), citrons (Citrus medica), lumies (Citrus x lumia ).
This garden is the very first case to have been designed with an area specifically for the cultivation of citrus fruits. It was much later, towards the middle of the century, that Como I, Duke of Florence, would create a formal garden in his villa in Castello, where for the first time citrus fruits were grown in bunches in order to to be able to move them and protect them from the cold and wind during the winter. From September to April, they are transported in a sort of shed created especially for this shed created especially for this purpose, with large windows to enjoy the sun, aptly called the limonaia, orangery in modern French.
In the following centuries, the varieties of lemons and citrons multiplied
and the painter Bartolomeo Bimbi, who specialised in still life, left us a visual
visual evidence of this through his paintings. There are still forty or so varieties that have survived to the present day and can be seen in the gardens of the Medici villas, in particular that of Castello, near Florence.