A Medici military building in the heart of Florence.
The Fortezza da Basso fortress was built at the order of Alessandro de’ Medici between 1534 and 1537, to house troops of soldiers or provide shelter to rulers in case of insurrection, but also as a symbol of power, to instil fear and discourage any attempt at revolt by the Florentine people.
The mighty walls of the fortress create an irregular pentagon shape and include the ancient Porta a Faenza in the keep, which was part of the city’s last circle of walls, built in the 13th century. Inside are the Quartieri Monumentali, which house ancient halls, including the Cannoniera, with its panoramic terrace, the Sala della Scherma, the Sala dell’Arco, the Sala delle Armi, and the Grotte, in the vast underground passages where the Mugnone river once flowed. Not forgetting the Sala Ottagonale with its vaulted roof and “herringbone” bricks, a technique previously used by Brunelleschi for the dome of Florence Cathedral. The stunning Polveriera (powder room) was once used as a storehouse for explosives and ammunition. Outside, the Fortress Gardens, known as “del Vascone”, feature a large elliptical pool with a fountain and a swan colony.
Today, the military structure is the most important exhibition and trade fair venue in the city, with restored historical sites alternating with modern spaces, such as the Spadolini Pavilion and the Cavaniglia Pavilion.