From Palazzo Gondi, the history and the future of one of the oldest Florentine families
Gerardo and Lapo Gondi tell about the Florentine dynasty and its Palace
Located a block from Palazzo Vecchio, it is one of the oldest, most beautiful palazzos in Florence, and the view of the city from its roof terrace seems to be its most evocative. Palazzo Gondi was designed in 1489 by Giuliano da Sangallo, Lorenzo de ‘Medici’s favourite architect, and still belongs to the same family today: Marquis Bernardo and Vittoria, together with their two sons, Gerardo and Lapo, aged 39 and 32. Theirs is one of the oldest Florentine families, an ancient noble dynasty, whose progenitor Braccio Filippi was invested as a knight by Charlemagne in 786. Already well-established bankers at the time of Cosimo the Elder, the Gondi marked history with a marriage policy that united them with the Lords of Florence, the Medici. Lucrezia, daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, married Jacopo Salviati, son of Maddalena Gondi; their daughter, Maria, married Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, and Cosimo I, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, was born from their union. But in the gallery of historical family portraits there is also Antonio, forefather of the French branch, closely linked to Catherine de ‘Medici, Queen of France, a kingdom that gave the Gondi three dukes, two marshals, three bishops, and an archbishop of Paris, in addition to three cardinals. This hereditary vitality is the topic that animates the conversation with Gerardo and Lapo, one engaged in hospitality and management of the Tenuta Bossi - Marchesi Gondi vineyards in Pontassieve in Chianti Rufina, the other more active in the management of the family palazzo, wonderfully restored since 2006 and today a sumptuous venue for events, and the Fattoria di Volmiano in Calenzano, where oil has been made since the 15th century. Talking to them means coming across age-old stories, one inside the other like Chinese boxes... it would take not a book, but a series of books to tell them all. We have extrapolated some of the most incredible.
Gerardo, which is the most significant anecdote linked to your history?
There are so many, but the one about the crown on our coat of arms is interesting. The story is this – even if we are marquises, that crown is a ducal symbol, because when King Alfonso of Naples was unable to repay a large debt owed to Giuliano Gondi, he offered to invest him with the title of Duke. Giuliano, interested in something altogether different, proposed an exchange – instead of the title of Duke, he would take the architect --- a promising young man called Giuliano da Sangallo. He brought him to Florence, and together they planned our Palazzo to house the family’s business activities, as well as the white marble Gondi side chapel to the left of the altar in the Basilica Santa Maria Novella, where Brunelleschi’s crucifix is preserved. It was our ancestor who introduced Sangallo to Cosimo the Elder, and that encounter resulted in some of the most beautiful Florentine Renaissance humanism architecture. Going back to the crown, Giuliano wanted it included in the coat of arms as a reminder of that fruitful exchange.
Just the mention of Notre Dame de Paris and the Palace of Versailles would be enough to solicit amazing stories also about your French branch, wouldn’t it Lapo?
The apse of Notre Dame in Paris is none other than the Gondi Chapel, built to house the remains of Alberto and Piero, the sons of Antonio Gondi. During the French Revolution, the tombs were destroyed, but their statues, which can still be seen, were saved. As far as Versailles is concerned, much of the land on which the Palace’s legendary gardens were created belonged to the French branch of our family.
What effect does knowing you are part of all this have?
It’s history, just history. You have to be proud of it, but think about the future. The French branch died out in the 1600s. I would like ours to last for a long time as it has done so far. And in the best way!
Gerardo, among all your wines, which is the one that most represents you?
It’s called Fiammae, a 100% Sangiovese, where both the end result and the complex production method unite my taste for more powerful, intense wine, with that of my brother for something fruitier and more rounded.
A dream for your family’s future?
That it may, for the longest possible time, be even more famous and well known around the world. My mother and father have worked in this direction, and my brother and I are doing the same, both at the Palazzo and on the Estates.