Forte Belvedere , the common name of the fortress of Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere , is one of the two fortresses of Florence , in addition to a famous vantage point and valuable architectural work of the city. Located at the highest point of the Boboli hill, it can be reached from the San Giorgio coast , via Belvedere or via San Leonardo.
It was built between 1590 and 1595 by the will of the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de 'Medici , son of Cosimo I.
The project and the realization were entrusted to the architect Bernardo Buontalenti , the trusted architect of Cosimo I and his son, when he felt he was now safe as grand-duke of the once riotous city. Unlike the Fortezza da Basso , whose construction was begun in a historical moment in which the Medici , just returned to the city after the last expulsion and after the long siege of Florence in 1529 , wanted first to defend themselves from the republican thrusts of the city itself , had in reality multiple purposes: to protect the seat of government, Palazzo Pitti , to protect the southern area of the city and more generally the whole of the Oltrarno , to demonstrate with its majesty all the Medici power and finally to guarantee a refuge for the Grand Duke also from possible riots: the fortress was in fact the last stop of the Vasari Corridor that connected Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti with a suspended path, via Boboli , through an evocative interweaving of passages, apartments, corridors, bridges and gardens.
The architect followed the theoretical principles of modern fortification , in particular in place of the besieged front Buontalenti designed a futuristic (for the time) in front of the tattered, especially in the side facing outside, inspired by the drawings of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger for the fortifications of Castro . The place on which the fort was built had already been identified as a site of great strategic importance at the time of the siege of Florence by Michelangelo , then chief engineer at the fortifications. The primitive version of the fort, realized in earth and gabions, can be seen in Vasari's accurate fresco in the Clement VII study in Palazzo Vecchio .
The fortress was also probably intended as a repository of the Medici family treasure, as a cave was recently rediscovered at the bottom of a deep well dug into the hill from within the central building. The crypt was also protected by deadly traps connected to the opening device in case someone tried to force it.
As in other works by Buontalenti, the originality of Forte Belvedere, an "urban" fortress which therefore had to present prestigious finishes, is manifested in the unique details of the construction of both the fortification and the internal villa, the elegant and white Belvedere building. three floors overlooking the entire building, fully recognizable among the Medici villas [2] , also for its representation in one of the lunettes by Giusto Utens .
The central building, which served as the residence of the Grand Duke in unhealthy times, as during the plague epidemic of 1600 , did not fit the military principles to which the rest of the fort obeys, but rather with its white walls from " Medici villa " a visible sign of the Medici domination.
The only defensive device, the upper floors accessible only through a single entrance, a very narrow staircase built into the wall.
For more than a century since its construction, the fort was guarded by the patrols of the soldiers who watched over the stands. It was then the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo who at the end of the eighteenth century, having practically dismissed the Tuscan army, opened to his subjects the incomparable balcony over Florence: the fort has never suffered a siege , nor its artillery have ever fired a shot in a war action. The Forte's cannonades announced only midday, so much so that for the Florentines that noise was good-naturedly called "the cannon of pastas". In the second post-war period of the last century the Fort was still used as a military barracks until, in the mid-1950s, a major restoration and restoration project was undertaken by the Monuments Superintendency and the Autonomous Tourist Office of Florence. allowed the reopening to the public in 1958. Unfortunately, the aforementioned convention expired in 1977 the fort fell into a state of deplorable abandonment until, thanks to a new agreement with the Intendenza di Finanza, the Municipality of Florence started an impressive recovery work and rehabilitation.