Palazzo Antellesi is located in the scenic Piazza Santa Croce, in the area that was once at the margins of Florence’s Roman rectangular town. As the city evolved and grew in size during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the Piazza became part of the historic center. it is less than five minutes away from Palazzo della Signoria, the City Hall, which also functioned for almost three centuries as one of the Medici residencies.
Piazza Santa Croce is dominated by its massive Gothic Franciscan Basilica, the largest such basilica in the world, whose construction began in 1294. The Basilica’s facade was finished only in 1865, and its architect, Niccolo’ Matas, is buried in front of the main portal. The large Star of David in blue mosaic high up above the main portal is a mysterious presence, explained by some with the fact that Matas was Jewish. The basilica doubles as the national mausoleum, the sacred place where great Italians, including Machiavelli and Michelangelo, find their final rest.
The Palazzo Antellesi is the second most prominent monument of the piazza. Its foundations date back to Roman times, and over the centuries the building underwent many transformations. It acquired its current form at the beginning of the seventeenth century when it was converted in the seigniorial residence of the prominent Antellesi family, bankers to the Medici. The bust of Grand Duke Cosimo II Medici over the entrance to the Palazzo is there to testify the closeness between the reigning Medicis and their wealthy bankers. It is to be assumed that the Antellesis often entertained their patrons with banquets and dances in the large halls of their palazzo.
The palazzo is the only one in Florence with a fully frescoed facade celebrating the Medici reign, and includes a copy of Caravaggio’s Amorino Dormiente (Dormant Love,) that was once owned by the Antellesi family.
Over the past three centuries Palazzo Antellesi changed ownership several times following the fortunes and the misfortunes of its buyers and sellers. In the mid-1950s it was acquired by the Piccolominis, one of Italy’s most historic families, descendants of two Popes, Pius II and Pius III, and, among others, of Ascanio Piccolomini, patron and protector of Galileo Galilei.
The Piccolominis later restored the Palazzo to its prior splendor and, while keeping its traditional structure, created ten luxury apartments of various sizes available for rent.
Palazzo Antellesi is listed as an Italian Historic Treasure.