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  • Il Colosso dell'Appennino (The Apennine Colossus)

    By Anthony Parente

    Il Colosso dell'Appennino Apennine Colossus Vaglia Florence
    Saliko CC BY 3.0
    If you are in Florence and looking for something that is off the beaten path you may want to travel about 12km (7.5 miles) north of the city and visit the Villa Demidoff, which contains remains of the Villa Medici di Pratolino. Together with other villas of the Medici family the Parco Pratolino was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the largest parks in Tuscany and is home to the Colosso dell'Appennino.

    Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, had the Villa di Pratolino built to please his Venetian mistress Bianca Capello. The villa and garden were designed and built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1569 and 1581. It was the setting for Francesco's wedding to Bianca in 1579. Following the deaths of both Francesco and Bianca the villa was abandoned. In the late 18th century, a number of sculptures were removed and placed in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. The villa was demolished and the garden redesigned. Eventually it was sold to the to the Demidoff family in 1872 and they constructed their own villa. Finally, the province of Florence bought the park and currently maintains it opening it to the public from April to October.

    The Colosso dell'Appennino (Apennine Colossus) measures about thirty-five feet tall and was sculpted between 1577-81 by sculptor Giambologna. It is half man and half mountain a symbol of Italy's rugged Apennine mountains and fittingly named Appennino. The sculpture resembles an elderly man crouched down along the shore. If you look closely at his left hand, you will see that it is clutching the head of a beast. Water flows through the opening of the beastís mouth into the pond. This spectacular brooding work of art is more than a statue as it also contains hidden rooms. The ground floor houses a grotto dedicated to the Greek goddess Tethys (goddess of water) that contains a fountain and adorned with frescoes by the Italian painter Jacopo Ligozzi. The middle grotto contains frescoes of men mining precious ores. Within the head is an area for a small orchestra to perform as well as a firepit. When the firepit is lit you can see smoke bellowing out of the nostrils. Perched behind the Colossus is a dragon constructed later by the Florentine sculptor Giovanni Battista Foggini. It is as if the dragon is the guardian of the two entrances behind the statue.

    Many believe that if this sculpture were built in the main square of a major city in Italy this would be one of the most famous attractions in the world.

    For additional information including how to get to the park and hours of operation please visit:

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