The woman who shaped Florence’s destiny

By Meredith Bach

Around sunset on October 10th, someone is singing loudly, gorgeously, from the garden in the Fedora cafe. The song is the Trionfo di Bacco, or the “Triumph of Bacchus” by Lorenzo “the magnificent” de’Medici. A woman performs it to the crowd as a part of the Palazzi Community Center’s most recent event: a book exhibition, historical lesson, and artistic performance all tied into one.  

Gone are the laptops and backpacks from the busy school day in the courtyard. Instead, the area displays a semicircular arrangement of chairs and tables, lit warmly by tiny yellow lamps and twinkle lights. At the front of it all is the speaker of the night, Marialuisa Bianchi.  

Bianchi is a historian and author of the book “History of Florence: The Precious Legacy of the Last Medici Princess Who Shaped the City’s Destiny.” For the event, she guides the garden through the legacy of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the woman who is credited with providing much of the Florentine art and monuments in the city today. In 1737, Anna Maria Luisa stipulated the “Family Pact,” which essentially gave over the Medici family’s massive artistic collection to the state for the benefit of the public. Not only did this pact preserve a myriad of cultural treasures, but it also made them accessible to everyone, further developing the tourist industry and artistic importance of Florence.  

Tuesday night’s presentation detailed multiple Florentine fortunes that may not have been so accessible if it weren’t for Anna Maria Luisa’s work: the Duomo, the statue of David, and Botticelli’s “Primavera” painting, to name a few. With her friend as an English reader, Bianchi presented an informative summary of these works alongside a live reading of her novel. While the presentation provided clarifying facts, the book gave insight into the princesses’ personal and emotional experiences with the artistic pieces.  

“I tried to go into the head of the Princess,” explains Bianchi, “so I could really tell why she did the Pacte de Famille... she moved things for the future of the Florentine people.”  

All around her, Florentine people—students, scholars, and citizens--- lean forward in their seats, eyes attentive, heads nodding in approval. Some raise their hands to question or comment as she goes along. The garden turns into a space of curiosity and conversation.  

An Italian studies student even goes up to the front to speak with Bianchi in Italian. She is joined in the audience by several university students who enhance the event. Journalists, photographers, and hospitality students speckle the crowd. 

“That’s our goal,” told us Valentina Monacò Director of the Palazzi Community Center

and organizer of the event , “we try to find courses and students that can be involved in the events so that you can have your hands-on experience and learn a little more.”  She encourages students to attend the Community center’s next upcoming event, an art exhibition opening, on Thursday, October 19th in the Via Ricasoli 21 building.

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