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Villa Demidoff is the modern name of the ancient Medici Paggeria of Pratolino. Located in the hills around Florence, along the Via Bolognese towards Mugello, the Villa of Pratolino was bought by Francesco I de Medici in 1568.
It is said that it was purchased by Francesco to make it a fairy-tale place as a gift for his second wife Bianca Cappello. The construction of the villa and the transformation of this rugged terrain into a magical place were entrusted to Bernardo Buontalenti. He created a splendid villa, now lost, immersed in a park of wonders where there were water games and automatisms, a labyrinth, fountains and caves, beautiful gardens and many plants of particular value. A little Versailles in Florence, a theatre of delights, magnificence and comfort.
The park of Pratolino was the largest garden-park of the Medici estates, as shown in a detailed illustration by Giusto Utens in the Museo Firenze Com’era. It was in fact a large Italian garden of about 20 hectares, accessed from the north by passing in front of the imposing Fontana di Giove. Inside the park there were large stables that were also used by wayfarers travelling along the Via Bolognese.
After the sudden death of Francesco and Bianca, the park and the villa were abandoned by the other Medici and fell into a deep state of neglect. It was with Grand Duke Ferdinando III of Lorraine that the park came back to life. In 1872 the park was sold to the Russian Prince Paul II Demidoff who renovated the buildings inside the property, enlarging the villa that takes its name from him, and rearranged the park as we see it today. After about 100 years, in 1981, the property was purchased by the Provincial Administration of Florence to become a public park.