The Grand Duchy Mediceo
With the assassination of Duke Alessandro by the hand of his cousin Lorenzino de’Medici (1537), Cosimo I descendent of Lorenzo, brother of Cosimo the Older, came to power.
The new Duke notably developed the agriculture, also land reclamation, planted olive groves and vineyards, cast the base of which was to become the actual zone of Chianti.
At Boboli (the garden of the Pitti Palace where he lived since his wife Eleonora of Toledo bought it in 1549) cultivated rare plants such as mulberry trees, dwarf pears, plants of exotic fruit other than potatoes and tomatoes that in Florentine cooking were already used (especially fried) whereas in northern Italy they were considered ornamental plants.
The luxurious, unrestrained banquets of Alessandro were a vague memory; but in Florence one could eat very well. In his diary Jacopo Carucci said the pontormo spoke of pea soup, minestrone of castrone, head of goat caviar, pandiramerino, boiled meat with butter, asparagus and egg "cacio e baccelli”, egge and artichockes, roast meat, egg “al tegame”, boiled pumpkin etc., etc., and also fruit such a plum cita, nuts, figs and zibibbo with bread and almonds. In 1569 Cosimo I managed to be crowned Grand Duke of Tuscany by Pope Pius V becoming the most powerful sovereign in Italy.
On his death (1547) the power passed to his first son Francesco I (who died in mysterious circumstances in the villa at Poggio a Caiano) and then Ferdinando I (1587).
It was seen in those years the beginning of the explanations in minute detail of wine and its quality. It was in that century in fact that a letter was written by Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza to a certain Sante Lancerio, in which for the first time was explained in a form of valuation of single wines, their exterior aspect, perfume, taste, after-taste, as well as its alcoholic strength, duration, attitude to transportation, suitability to accompany various foods, which times of the day it should be drunk, different seasons, and their various physiological conditions.
From Tuscany was examined the Trebbiano;
The Trebbiano came to Rome from the Florentine state of Valdarno above and many other places, but the best is taht of San Giovanni and Figghine(1). The major part is carried in flasks with baskets and arrive also some
cartelli(2). This type of wine is a delicate drink, but not for every meal, it is a light wine(3). To know its perfect goodness, it must not be of excessive colour, but golden, of a smell not too acute, sweet, not too sweet, not of the country, above all of the quince. Of this sort and goodness we must be grateful to His Holiness, but not with every meal. Of this wine and kindness where brought to Rome by Messrs. Bindo Altoviti(4) and they donated it to H.H. who readily drinks it in the autumn, between the new and old seasons.
Figghine: Figline 2. Caratelli: type of botticelle more long than large. 3. Light: of little body, passante. 4. Bindo Altoviti: brother of Antonio, who was the Archbishop of Florence.
The Greco of San Gemignano;
Greco of San Gemignano
It is a perfect drink for lords and it is a great shame that this place does not make enough. How is it that this place is well supplied with virtuous men, doctors, lawyers, men of letters, and so it should have abundant vineyards, to make this sort of wine than not. San Gemignano is an extremely large tract of land in the Florentine state. This wine every autumn is brought to Rome by donkeys(1) in great flasks the Rev. Santiquattro of Casa Pucci(2) who donates it to H.H. The wine has in itself perfection, in its colour, smell, taste; but if you want to know its goodness it must not be agrestino, above all must have the cotogno like the Trebbiano, and must be mature, mellow(3) and give off an odour. In this place there are also very good vernacciuole(4), and this wine is drunk very much by H.H. and gives honour to the place.
The wine of Portercole;
The wine of Portercole
It comes from a port and villa in Monte Argentaro, on a few occasions it is good, but when it is in its perfection there is no equal drink, that maximum of the vines planted by Agostino Chigi(5) senese. The taste of this wine must be sweet and not smoky, and must have its moscato(6), because there are in those vines the muscatel vines. The wine must have a golden colour and not fat nor agrestino, wait for the delicateness to soon become strong. H.H. and many prelates are very grateful for this sort of wine. When it is found in its perfection H.H. gives honour to the wine, especially in the winter. And when H.H. left this world he was drinking it, and many times said that in all of his state there we no better drink. But for a long time this wine did not arrive in Rome, due to the soldiers who had cut down nearly all the vines(7). A great shame!
a some: adverb, for “in large quantities”. 2. Casa Pucci: noteworthy Florentine family. 3. Pastoso:
soft. 4. Vernacciuole: vernacce of medium quality. 5. Agostino Chigi: generous patron of the arts, as told by the Magnificent (1465-1520). 6. To have its moscato: to have a part of muscatel. 7. Due to the soldiers who cut nearly all teh vines: caused by the French and Turkish soldiers who fought for the Republic of Siena against Cosimo I, Duke of Florence.
The wine of Montepulciano;
the wine of Montepulciano
It is perfect in the winter as well as the summer, the red is better in the summer, I am certain. These wines have smell, colour and taste and H.H. drinks it willingly, not much in Rome where they are brought in flasks, but still in Perugia. Marcello Cervino, then Papa and asked for by Marcello II, who did not reign above twenty days, and Tarugio Tarugi Roman Senator, who made competition of who could donate the best. If you want to know the goodness of this wine, it must give off an odour, polputo, not agrestino, nor full of colour. It is at its best in the summer, in the great heat, raw and the vines old. Of this type H.H. drinks willingly, and gives honour to the wine and presente1 to the donators, in Rome as well as Perugia, therefore it is a wine for the lords. Monepulciano is in the Florentine state.
The wine of Casentino;
the wine of Casentino of the Florentine state
It is for the major part red, and are perfect wines. Of this wine every year the hermit monks of Camaldoli took it in barrels or one or two casks, and donated it to H.H. who drank it willingly. The wine is very good, but has too much colour, and is raw. Of this wine H.H. would never drink it at mealtimes, but in the evening before going to bed, because it relaxed the phlegm and reduced the catarrh, maximum in the month of October between the new vines and the old.
The wine of Cortona.
The wine of Cortona
It is a perfect wine as much the white as the red, but better the white that says to be Trebbiano, but not in its lightness. There are still very gentili2, and resist for some days, transferable from place to place in flasks, it is a delicate drink. Of this wine uses H.H. who drank it when he stayed in Perugia the maximum of the whites, that the Cardinal d’Ariminis donated and knew very well, and every year made provision and drank a lot of it. And also drank that of Signor Antonio Marquese of Monte, had grown fond of his servant, he donated many flasks. To know its perfection, it must not be smoky and be digestable and not sweet and have its cotognino and not be preserved in cotto, and so satisfies very much, but first however the experience of colour, and so you have an excellent drink.
1.presente: gift, complimentary gift of gratitude. 2. Gentili: delicate and generous at one time.
And with the sons of Cosimo I returned the luxury and refinement.
The feast and banquet most famous was that of Ferdinand I for the wedding of his neice Maria de’Medici (daughter of Francesco I and Giovanna d’Austria) to the King of France Henry IV. It is said that it was the richest banquet in the history of Florence. The marriage was made by proxy and the nuptial feast was on the 5th October 1600 in the Salone of Cinquecento of the Palazzo Vecchio with the cooperation of Bernardino Buontalenti.
For the three hundred invited there were prepared sixty courses, beginning with twentyfour cold dishes between which were mixed salads, ox tongues, pasticcio of veal, pasticcio of wild pig, pidgeons, cockerels etc. Of the twentyeight hot dishes that followed there were pheasants, capons, qail and then thrushes, skylarks, roasted piglets, starne; and to finish sweet dishes, cheeses, vegetables, ices and peaches in wine.
The banquet of whose fame even reached France where Maria de’Medici transfered bringing with her a band of cooks and her alchemist Ruggieri: entering into the French cooking, new foods, of which can be remembered the sorbets made with iced milk and honey; and also the short-crust pastry, pastry for the bignè and many other recipes that made France more fortunate than our own country.
In Florence in those years sprung up places where people met for appointments during the day or met by chance; pleasant places where even in the first years of the XVII century it was possible to taste the “cioccolatte” (milk chocolate), thanks to the Florentine merchant Francesco Carletti who had brought the chocolate from one of his long voyages to South America. For all the XVII century Florence - thanks to the flourishing mercantile activities - saw a great season in the culinary arts also because there were circulating recipes of food from other countries, above all French, English and Spanish. Foreign cooks were much prized among the most notable families - with a provincial restlessness to renew - finally adding French terms to Florentine preparations, even to causing great errors such as that of the “vitel tonè” (that can still be read today on many menùs) intending to give nobility to our vitello tonnato with a vaguely French expression and irony: in fact in French the exact translation is veau au thon.
The opulence of those years were represented in many paintings; the still-life of Caravaggio is famous (enough to cite the basket of fruit), of Carracci, of Salvator Rosa and of the nun Giovanna Garzoni that, though born in Ascoli Piceno, worked above all in Florence where - in the gallery of Palazzo Pitti - there can be found some of her beautiful paintings of food and fruit.
But to remain tied to the painters of the Grand Duchy of Florence we must cite Barolomeo Bimbi; of whose, always at the Pitti, still-life of a bunch of grapes is shown among others of his works.
The Grand Duchy Mediceo slowly ebbed away exhausted by the decadence of the family. At the death of Ferdinando 1 the successor, the son of Cosimo II, ulcerated, tubercular and afflicted with the hereditary disease of gout; closed the famous Medici Bank because he thought it was undignified for a sovereign to trade in money.
A good part of his heritage was given away in legacies and as alms; he died prematurely in 1621; and his son of ten years old became the Grand Duke, Ferdinando II under the regency of his grandmother Maria Cristina of Lorena.
After him came Cosimo III (1670), in ill-health, obsessed with religion, homosexual and his wife was blatantly unfaithful to him.
The last Grand Duke mediceo was the son Gian Gastone (1723) who was also ill and homosexual - he did not have any sons and so the Medici dynasty which had governed the city of Florence for more than three centuries, came to an end at his death (1738).