Florence travel guide

A naval battle at Pitti!

At the time of the Grand Dukes, in the courtyard of Palazzo Pitti, the most sumptuous society parties and theatrical performances took place.

The marriage in 1589 between Ferdinando I Medici and Christine Lorraine, favourite niece of Catherine Queen of France, marked a turning point in the Medici policy of alliances. For this solemn occasion the festivities were to be memorable!

To impress its prestigious guests, a naumachia was staged, which could be admired from the upper floors of the courtyard, which was transformed into a spectacular setting for a naval battle! But how did they do it?

The sides were sealed with bitumen and the courtyard was filled with water to a height of almost 2 metres.

In Livorno were specially built 18 ships, protagonists of the theatrical reconstruction of a real naval battle between Turks and Christians.

The effect was amazing, also thanks to the suggestive pyrotechnics by Bernardo Buontalenti, the court architect famous for his technical devices including automata, merry-go-rounds and fireworks. For this reason he was also called Bernardo of the pinwheels!

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