Located high above the Giardino di Boboli and Palazzo Pitti, the Forte Belvedere boasts some of the best views of Florence. Commissioned by Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici and designed by architect Bernardo Buontalenti during 1590-1595, Forte Belvedere is not your typical fort.
As well as protecting the Medici treasury, the villa inside the fort was also meant to be a safe house for the Grand Duke in times of civil unrest. However, he also wanted to enforce the status and prestige of the Medici family, so the villa was decorated with luxurious furnishings, unlike the rest of the fort which was a garrison for the troops.
If necessary, the Grand Duke could easily reach Forte Belvedere through the Vasari Corridor which runs over Ponte Vecchio, and then via underground passages in Palazzo Pitti and hidden paths in Boboli Gardens.
The fort’s strategic position on top of a promontory, and its wall design which allows protection from cross fire, meant it served its purpose as a defensive military structure extremely well. Not only was the seat of the government of Florence, Pitti Palace, protected but also the whole south end of the city.
Today, due to work done in the 1950’s to restore the path, the fort can be reached through the east side of the Boboli gardens. As well as having stunning views, which can be seen from the pathway around the perimeter, the fort holds art exhibitions and, during summer, there is an outdoor cinema.
Stargazers may also be interested to know that Galileo Galilei often visited Forte Belvedere for his studies in astronomy and had a villa in Arcetri in the hills above Florence, where he was sentenced to live in 1633.