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London, Henry S. King & Co., 1877; Transcribed and Photographed, Carolyn Carpenter. CD, Florence in Sepia, contains full-scale images, and several other Victorian e-books on Florence, and is available from Julia Bolton Holloway


WALKS IN FLORENCE: CHURCHES, STREETS AND PALACES

SUSAN AND JOANNA HORNER



 
 

Chapter XXXVIII:  The Carmine – Porta Romana – the Annalena

The Piazza di Santo Spirito, which, until 1871, was an open paved square, has been recently laid out in gardens.  Opposite the church at the entrance of the Via San' Agostino leading to the Carmine, is a house belonging to the Marchese Stufa, who possesses a most interesting bust of the Gonfalonier Nicolò Soderini, by Mino da Fiesole, which was discovered in a cellar.  It is carefully finished in the manner of the old Florentine artists, full of life, and evidently a correct likeness, and every detail faithfully rendered, to the squint in the eyes and a mole on the lip.  The Marchese has also three good reliefs in pietra-serena, and a Madonna, which were found in the cellar with the bust of Soderini.

The corner of the Via Sant' Agostino and the Via de' Serragli is commonly known as the Canto della Cuculia, because this spot was once in the midst of the gardens belonging to the Velluti, frequented by the cuckoo.  Here a triumphal arch was erected in honour of Charles V., when he entered Florence in 1515, and Ridolfo Ghirlandaio and his pupil, or son, Michele, exerted all their inventive powers and skill to make it more splendid.  In a house near the Canto della Cuculia a poor child was charitably received, who afterwards became the celebrated painter Filippo Lippi.  His father was a butcher, and his mother died when Filippo was only two years old, when the boy was consigned to his aunt, who lived here, and kept him until he had attained his tenth year; her poverty obliged her to place her nephew in the neighbouring Monastery of the Carmine, where he was registered as an inmate, and where he remained until he was past twenty, in the year 1432, having been already entered on the books of the Carmine as a painter.
The Church and Monastery of Sta. Maria della Carmine was built for the Carmelite friars by Agnes, widow of Cione Tifa di Praniere Vernacci, in fulfilment of her husband's last will.  The Soderini, Manetti, Nerli, Ferucci, and Serragli families gave generous contributions to the church, which was finished in 1475.  In 1771 a great part of the building was destroyed by fire, and it was restored in its present form by Giuseppe Ruggieri, chiefly at the expense of the Marchese Lorenzo Niccolini.   The monastery was built by Count Guido da Montefeltro, and enlarged by one of the Soderini.

The Carmelites pretend to derive their origin from Elijah, "who dwelt solitary in the midst of Carmel."  In England they are called White friars, from their mantles, which, by order of Pope Honorius III., were white, worn over a dark brown mantle.296

The Senator Giovanbattista Michelozzi, who built the canopy for the high altar of Santo Spirito, erected the covered entrance to the cloister in the year 1600, and on that occasion the friars had the barbarity to whitewash and partially destroy a celebrated fresco in the cloister by Masaccio, which represented the Consecration of the Church, and contained portraits of the Archbishop Amerigo Corsini, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Giovanni de' Medici, Nicolò da Uzzano, Bartolommeo Valori, Lorenzo Ridolfi, and other celebrated men of the period.  As much as remains of this fresco has been recently been uncovered.  A Florentine gentleman, in a red dress, is supposed to represent Giovanni de' Medici, the only virtuous citizen of the family which he founded.  The face here is nearly obliterated, but the figure and action is refined and dignified, and the drapery arranged in grand yet simple folds; near him two friars converse with animation as they enter the church.  Higher up, on the same wall, is a repetition of the favourite subject of hermitages, probably referring to the first hermits on Mount Carmel.  One group is very amusing, and the figures composing it are evidently portraits.  A stout jolly friar is seated on the ground, and turns towards the spectator with a broad smile; a younger monk addressing him, appears hardly able to keep his countenance.  A piece of drapery which is all that remains of a third figure, descending the hill, would prove an admirable study for the young painter.

On another part of the same wall is the fresco of a knight and a nun, who are presented to the Virgin, by their patron saints.  This fresco, though of an earlier date, is in better preservation.  Cavalcaselle attributes it to Giovanni da Milano, the friend of Taddeo Gaddi.  The expression of the nun is singularly sweet and earnest, and the saints behind are dignified.  The remaining fresco of this cloister represent a series of events in the life of the prophet Elijah, whom the Carmelites claim as the founder of their Order.
The interior of the church, which is in the form of a Latin cross, is spacious and lofty, but has no pretension to beauty.  The roof is painted in fresco in a bad period of art.  The pictures in the chapels on either side of the nave are all mediocre, except one by Pocetti, to the right, representing the Eternal appearing to the Virgin, who is mourning over her dead Son.297

The southern transept contains the celebrated Brancacci Chapel, with the paintings by Masaccio and Filippino Lippi, which commenced a new era in Art, and formed the greatest painters of the Cinque-Cento period.  Though preceding Raffaelle by nearly a century, Masaccio was well worthy of being his master; and when the youthful artist arrived in Florence, with ideas derived from the conventional types and formal, though correct, drawing of Perugino, he must have delighted in the freedom of hand, the close observation, and fine selection from nature, the dignity and grace of the figures, as well as the life and ease with which the story is told in these frescos.  As a proof of Raffaelle's appreciation of these works, and of his unfailing industry, it is recorded that he copied them seven times.

Though injured by the fire of 1777, and in an obscure light, enough can still be distinguished to delight and astonish the spectators.  Masaccio was born in 1402, and died in 1429, at twenty-seven years of age.  When he had just commenced life as an artist, he was enrolled in the Guild of Speziali – Apothecaries – who, as we have before mentioned, were peculiarly allied to the painters, from the chemical knowledge required in the preparation of colours.  He travelled to Rome to paint a chapel in the Church of San Clemente, for the Cardinal di San Clemente; and on his return to Florence he painted the portrait of Giovanni de' Bicci de' Medici, and soon afterwards commenced his frescos in the Brancacci Chapel, by order of Felice di Michele di Piuvichese Brancacci of the quarter of Santo Spirito.  The share attributed to another and earlier painter, Masolino, is denied by Cavalcaselle.  Filippino Lippi, 1457 – 1504, finished what Masaccio's early death obliged him to leave incomplete.  On the pilasters at the entrance are represented Adam and Eve under the Tree of Knowledge and the Expulsion from Paradise.  The walls of the chapel are divided in twelve compartments, including these two frescos – St. Peter heals Tabitha, and cures a cripple at the Gate of the Temple.  He preaches and baptizes; the youth who has just thrown off his garment, and stands shivering with cold, is a figure which, according to Lanzi, formed an epoch in Art.  Peter and John heal a cripple; the houses in the background have windows constructed for blinds, before the use of glass; the two Florentine youths converse in the centre of the composition:  their draperies are finely drawn, and the colouring is soft and agreeable.  Peter rescued from Prison; the expression of the angel, who, with a smile on his countenance, is listening to the apostle, is singularly sweet.  The grand figure of St. Paul standing before the prison is by Filippino Lippi, and was introduced by Raffaelle into his cartoon of Paul preaching at Athens.  Peter finding the Tribute Money in the Fish's Mouth, is a large compartment, in which the composition is divided in three separate events; Andrew calls Peter; Peter seeks for the money in the mouth of the fish; and in the centre and principal group, the Saviour, a calm and dignified figure, is seated in the midst of the apostles:  Peter is eagerly expostulating with him.  The heads of the apostles are very fine, and may have suggested to Raffaelle his group in the cartoon of "Feed my Sheep."  A grand range of mountains forms the background, not unlike the Carrara, as seen from the Mediterranean.  Below this fresco, St. Peter raises a youth to life, a scene from the apocryphal history of the apostles.  The story is thus given by Mrs. Jameson: - "Simon the magician challenged peter and Paul to restore life to a dead youth, who is said to have been a kinsman or nephew of the roman emperor.  The sorcerer fails of course.  The apostles resuscitate the youth, who kneels before them.  The skull and bones near him represent the previous state of death.  A crowd of spectators stand around and behold the miracle.  All the figures are half the size of life, and quite wonderful for the truth of expression, the variety of character, the simple dignity of the forms and attitudes."298

Masaccio died when at work on this picture, and the central group of the composition was finished many years later by Filippino Lippi.  The kneeling youth is said to have been a portrait of Françesco Granacci, who was born in 1469, and was, when painted, apparently about sixteen.  Among the spectators are several portraits.  The first head on the left is Marco Soderini, who died in 1485; the poet Luigi Pulci is on his right, and the two on each side of monks are Piero Guiccardini, the father of the historian, and Piero del Pugliese.

Opposite is one of the finest composition of the series, Nero condemning Peter to Death, with the Apostle's Crucifixion, attributed to Filippino Lippi.  Nero is seated on a throne, his head crowned with laurel; to the right, behind his extended arm, are three portraits; that to the right of the pro-consul is Antonio Pollajuolo; the third from Nero is Masaccio, and resembles the portrait by himself in the Uffizi Gallery, from which it may have been taken.  There are also portraits to the left of Nero; one is probably Filippino, with a bald head, seated.  At the further end of the composition St. Peter is crucified with his head downwards:  the cross is supported by two half-nude executioners, who are letting down the saint by a rope; Botticelli's portrait is among the spectators with sorrowful countenances.  Filippino likewise executed the remainder of the frescos in this chapel.  As Mrs. Jameson observes: - "In considering these works, their superiority over all that painting had till then achieved or attempted is such that there seems a kind of break in the progression of Art, as if Masaccio had overleapt suddenly the limits which his predecessor had found impassable; but Ghiberti and his gates explain this seeming wonder.  The chief excellencies of Masaccio were those which he had attained, or at least conceived, in his early studies in modelling.  He had learned from Ghiberti not merely the knowledge of form, but the effects of light and shade, in giving relief and roundness to his figures, which, in comparison to those of his predecessors, seemed to start from the canvas.  Masaccio added a precision in the drawing of the naked figure, and a softness and harmony in colouring the flesh, never attained before his time, nor since surpassed, till the days of Raphael and Titian.  He excelled also in the expression and imitation of natural actions and feelings....Add the animation and variety of character in his heads – so that it was said of him that he painted souls as well as bodies – and his free-flowing draperies, quite different from the longitudinal folds of the giotto school, yet grand and simple, and we can form some idea of the combination of excellence with novelty of style which astonished his contemporaries."299

The artists who, Vasari informs us, studied here, besides Raffaelle, were Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Andrea del Sarto, Fra Bartolommeo, Perugino, and Baccio Bandinelli.

In a chapel of the Sacristy of the Carmine some interesting frescos have been recently discovered beneath the whitewash, which are supposed to have been by the hand of Agnolo Gaddi.  The subject is the legend of St. Cecilia, with her husband, St. Valerian, and their friend, St. Tiburtius.  St. Cecilia is a most lovely woman, and the same fair face, with the delicate features, long golden hair, and dignified, yet sweet and serious expression, are preserved with portrait-like fidelity in every representation of the saint.  In the lunette on the wall to the left, facing the high altar, is the Marriage of Valerian and Cecilia; below is the banquet, in which the servants bring in meat, whilst Cecilia plays on her organ; and at the opposite end she is seen conversing with her husband.  In the lunette above the window an old man is seated on a martyr's tomb, and points out St. Urban to Valerian.  In the lunette on the wall to the right of the altar, Valerian is instructed in Christianity by an old man, and is baptized by St. Urban.  In the second division, on the left wall, Valerian is seen in prayer crowned by angels; Tibertius is instructed in Christianity by Valerian and Cecilia, and is baptized.  On either side of the window, Valerian and Tibertius distribute alms and bury the dead; they are led before the Prefect; on the right wall they are on the way to execution, when they convert their jailer and all his family; they are prepared for death by Cecilia, and are executed.  On the lowest compartment, to the left, Cecilia distributes alms, and is taken prisoner; on her road to execution she instructs the bystanders, and four thousand persons are converted.  On the right wall, opposite, Cecilia is beheaded, and the blood is collected as it flows from her neck; her figure here is especially graceful; she is buried in the catacombs, and her house is consecrated as an oratory by St. Urban.

In the choir of the church, which was built by the Soderini family, is the monument by Benedetto da Rovezzano, to the memory of the celebrated Piero Soderini, who was Gonfalonier of Florence in 1502, and who died and was buried in Rome.  It consists of a plain dark green marble sarcophagus beneath an arch of white marble, richly decorated with delicate carving, and skulls which have a circle of hair like that of monks.  On the supports and other parts of the monument are larger skulls, with hair starting from the head, giving them a still more ghastly appearance; figures of men, animals, genii with scrolls of acanthus leaves, and imitations of antique arabesques are included among the ornaments; and lower down, leopards, the papal keys, and the favourite Florentine decoration of festoons of fruit.

In the northern transept, which belongs to the Corsini family, built in 1675, is the tomb of Sant' Andrea Corsini, to whom the chapel is dedicated.  The painted ceiling is by Luca Giordano.  The ponderous marble relief of the apotheosis of the saint is by Foggini; on one side, represented in a similar manner, is the story of the victory of the Florentines over a famous leader of Free Companies, won by the prayers of Sant' Andrea; on the other, the Virgin accompanied by angels, appears to the Saint.  Andrea Corsini died in 1373; he was first a Carmelite friar, and afterwards Bishop of Fiesole, and was canonized by Urban VIII. in 1629.

Tomb slab in Carmine Cloister
From the Carmine to the Walls is inhabited by the lowest population of Florence.

The Porta San Frediano, built in 1324 by Andrea Pisano, is one of the finest gates in the city.  The remains of the Ante-Port may be traced on the outside wall.  It was here that Charles VIII. of France made his entrance into Florence in 1494.  "On the day appointed, the 17th November, the Signory were in attendance in a balcony erected near the San Frediano gate.  Many of the young Florentines of the first families went out to meet the king, who, at two o'clock in the afternoon, made his solemn entry.  As he approached, the Signory rose, and Luca Corsini, to whom the duty had been assigned, advanced to read an address that had been prepared.  But just at that moment rain began to fall, the horses would not stand, but pushed against one another, and the whole ceremony was thus thrown into confusion:  Gaddi alone, who was steward of the palazzo, had, however, sufficient presence of mind to make his way, and contrived in the hubbub to say a few words to the king in French, suited to the occasion, after which Charles went forward under a rich canopy....On each side of him rode the Cardinals San Piero in Vincola and of San Malo, together with some of his marshals.  The royal body-guard followed, consisting of a hundred archers selected from amongst the handsomest youths of France, and two hundred knights of France on foot, in splendid dresses, and armed; then came the Swiss guard, with their brilliant uniforms of various colours, having halberts of burnished steel, their officers wearing rich plumes on their helmets....The centre consisted of the Gascons, short, light, active men, whose numbers seemed to multiply as they marched forward.  But the most splendid appearance of all was made by the cavalry, in which were to be found the most noble young men of France:  they had engraved armour, mantles of the richest brocade, banners of velvet embroidered with gold, chains of gold, and ornaments of the same precious metal.  The cuirassiers presented a hideous appearance with the horses looking like monsters, from their ears and tails being cut short.  The archers were extraordinarily tall men; they came from Scotland and other northern countries, and they looked more like wild beasts than men."300  Such was the accompaniment of one of the greatest sovereigns in Christendom, whom Pier Capponi awed into submission by the mere force of his firm and courageous patriotism.

Between the Porta San Frediano and the Porta Romana, beneath the walls, was the old Cemetery of the Jews, who were not permitted to lie within the city; the small stones amidst the grass still remaining, mark the graves of this persecuted people.  Within the walls, at the corner nearest the river, is a Tabernacle, attributed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, which is all that remains of a convent which once stood here.  The subject is a Madonna and Child, St. John the Evangelist, and Mary Magdalene. Beyond this point, outside the city, is the last remaining of the Tiratoii, or buildings adapted for stretching and drying cloth, once belonging to the most influential Guild in Florence.301


The Church of San Frediano is as old as the ninth century, when it stood in the midst of fields, before the third circuit of walls included the borough.  The Soderini were granted the patronage by Pope Paul II., in 1462.  The present church is wholly modern; it occupies the area of the old convent of the Carmelites of Santa Maria degli Angioli and Santa Maria Maddalena de Pazzi; the nuns ceded their convent, in 1628, to the Cistercian friars, and received in exchange the convent in the Borgo Pinti.  The cell of Santa Maddalena de' Pazzi has been converted into a chapel.

Returning to the Piazza Soderini, the via de' Serragli continues as far as the Porta Romana.  To the right, on entering this street, is one of the finest palaces in the city, built by the Marchese Ubaldo Feroni in 1770, after a design by Zanobi del Rosso.  The palaces on the other side are supposed to have belonged to the extinct family of the Serragli.  The name of the street was probably derived from them, and not, as some have supposed, from barricades raised in it.  Further on, to the left, a long line of houses formed the palaces of the Salviati, who were descended from a celebrated physician in the thirteenth century, Maestro Salvi by name.  Twenty-one of the family sat as Gonfaloniers of the Republic, and sixty-three held the office of Priors; the most celebrated was Françesco, who held the archbishopric of Pisa at the time of the Pazzi conspiracy, and who joined Jacopo and Françesco Pazzi in their attempt against the lives of Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici.  The archbishop was hung from a window of the Palazzo della Signoria.  This palace is supposed by some to have been inhabited by him, but the fact is doubtful.
To the right is the suppressed Convent and Church of Santa Elisabetta, in which was included a poor dwelling where San Filippo Neri was born, in 1515.  The tabernacle at the corner is attributed by some to Pocetti, by others to Giovanni di San Giovanni.  Near the Gardens of the Villino della Torre, between the via de' Serragli and the via Romana, is the little Church of Ser Umido, built on part of the site of the larger church of San Piero Gattolino, which was demolished by Cosimo I.  It was in San Piero Gattolino that the Padri Scopetini took refuge during the siege of 1529.  After its destruction, in 1547, a poor man called Messer Umido, who earned his livelihood by the sale of old iron, resolved to collect money to build a church in its stead; he persevered and succeeded, and the church of his erection is still known as San Piero di Ser Umido.

On  the opposite side of the Via de' Serragli are the extensive gardens and villas belonging to the Marchese Torrigiani.  The grandfather of the present owner built a high tower in the centre, - the crest of the family being a tower, - from whence a fine panorama of all the country round can be obtained.  His son, the Marchese Carlo, who inherited the garden, and bequeathed it to his nephew, the present owner, placed there a good statue of his father by the living artist Fede.

At the farther end of the Via de' Serragli is the Church and Seminary of La Calza, which has had a succession of inhabitants.  In 1323 it was an hospital belonging to the Order of the Knights of Jerusalem, and it was at that time called San Nicolò de' Frieri.  In 1392, certain ladies of the order of St. John of Jerusalem were allowed to use the building for their convent.  They were removed during the siege, when the convent was given to the Ingesuati from  the Porta Pinti, when the name was changed to San Giusto della Calza, from the stocking-like material of the cowl worn by these monks.  They enlarged the church and monastery, and enriched it by various pictures; but the Ingesuati were suppressed by Clement IX. In 1688, and the convent was finally sold to the Congregation of Priests of San Salvatore, and changed its name again to San Giovan Battista della Calza.  The church was probably indebted to the Ingesuati for the picture by Perugino over the high altar.  The crucified Saviour is in the same attitude with that in Sta. Maddalene de' Pazzi, though without its refinement and grace; on one side is the Beato Giovanni Colombini, of Sienna, and St. John the Baptist; a vigorous figure, but more in the hard style of Andrea Castagno, and by some attributed to Luca Signorelli.  The Magdalene on her knees contemplates the feet of the Saviour, and strives to draw out the nails; he has a beautiful, expressive face; St. Jerome, who presses eagerly forward, looking up in the Saviour's face, is likewise very fine; behind him, St. Francis, is a repetition of Perugino's usual figures, soft in expression, and carefully drawn.  The colour is very sweet throughout, but wants cleansing and refreshing to bring out the tone, which, in its present condition, is dead and hard. In the Refectory is a Cenacolo by Franciabigio; the heads are good, though feeble; the drawing of the figures careless, and the whole painting is in a damaged condition.


 The Porta Romana, which is on the old high road to Rome, was formerly known as the Porta di San Piero Gattolino.  It was by this gate that Pope Leo X. and the Emperor Charles V. made their entry into Florence in 1536.  They passed up the Via de' Serragli to the Canto alla Cuculia, where the triumphal arch was prepared by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, to the Piazza San Felice, by the Via Maggio to the Ponte SS. Trinità, thence to the Via de' Martelli, by which they reached the Palazzo Medici, now Riccardi, where they took up their abode.  Fra Bartolommeo, in his youth, lived near the Porta Romana, and thence obtained the name of Baccio della Porta.

Opposite the Porta Romana is a nearly effaced fresco by Giovanni di San Giovanni, which the artist is supposed to have painted in one night.  Mars, Pallas, and mercury, with the Graces, dance to the music of Apollo's lyre.  Florence is represented as a majestic female seated on a throne, habited in the sacred vestments of St. Stephen, pope and martyr.  Beside her are female representatives of Sienna and Pisa, as well as Flora, and the four seasons, with Amorini; the River Arno is above the architrave.
Turning into the Via Romana, and passing the Church of Ser Umido, before arriving at a gate of the Boboli Gardens, is a house with a tablet recording the dwelling of Giovanni di San Giovanni.  The opposite Casa MacDonald is on the site of what was once the large Convent of Annalena, founded by the unhappy widow of Baldaccio dell' Anguillara, whose tragical fate was recorded in the chapter on the "Palazzo della Signoria," and who owed his death to Cosimo de' Medici's jealousy of Neri Capponi, whom he wished to deprive of the services of so able a commander.  The Convent of Annalena belonged to Dominican nuns until they were suppressed in 1808.  It extended as far back as the Via de' Serragli, where for many years the American Hiram Powers, one of the greatest of living sculptors, had his studio.302

_______________

Chronology
 

Benedetto da Rovezzano 1478 – 1552
Brunelleschi, Filippo 1379 – 1446
Carmine built 1475
Carmine destroyed by fire 1771
Charles VIII. of France 1494
Charles V., Emperor, entered Florence 1575
Corsini, Andrea d. 1373
Corsini, Amerigo, first Archbishop of Florence 1420
Corsini Chapel in Carmine built 1676
Donatello 1386 – 1466
Francavilla b. 1548
Frediano, San, under the Soderini 1467
Gaddi, Agnolo 1333 – 1396
Ghirlandaio, Domenico 1449 – 1494
Ghirlandaio, Ridolfo 1483 – 1561
Giovanni di San Giovanni 1576 – 1636
Giordano, Luca 1632 – 1705
Lippi, Fra Filippo b. 1412 – 1469
Lippi, Filippino 1457 – 1504
Masaccio 1402 – 1427
Medici, Giovanni de' 1360 – 1429
Neri, San Filippo b. 1515
Perugino 1446 – 1524
Pisano, Andrea 1345
Pocetti 1542 – 1591
Pollajuolo, Antonio 1429 – 1498
Porto San Frediano 1024
Pulci, Luigi d. 1490
Ridolfi, Lorenzo, at Venice 1425
Salviati, Françesco, Archbishop of Pisa, hung 1478
Soderini, Marco d. 1486
Soderini, Piero, Gonfalonier 1502
Urban VIII., Pope 1625 – 1644
Uzzano, Nicolò d' d. 1432
Valori, Bartolommeo 1354 – 1427
 
 
 

Notes
 

296 See Mrs. Jameson, "Legends of the Monastic Orders," p. 429.
297 Two heads from this fresco were long in possession of the poet Samuel Rogers, Esq., and are now in the National Gallery of London.  [Ellen Orton, this book's original owner, noted that she had seen these at the National Gallery, and at that time (c. 1880) they were in Room 7.]
298 See "Memoirs of the Early Italian painters," by Mrs. Jameson.
299 See "Memoirs of the Italian Painters," by Mrs. Jameson.
300 See "Savonarola and his times," by Pasquale Villari, translated by Leonard Horner, Esq., vol. i. p. 219.
301 This building has been recently (1874) destroyed by fire.
302 Since the above was written, Hiram Powers departed this life on the 28th June, 1873, and on the 30th his remains were laid in the Protestant cemetery of Florence.  This eminent sculptor was not only a man of great and original genius and upright character, but, like his contemporary, our own John Gibson, he united to a singular degree that clear comprehension and modesty which are so generally characteristic of the highest order of mind.  The tall, dignified figure of the noble old man, his keen eye and pleasant smile, will long be missed by those who have had the privilege of seeing and knowing Hiram Powers in his studio in Florence.
 

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Chapter XXXIX:  The Boboli Gardens – Palazzo de' Pitti
 

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