The splendid Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens are popular places in Florence, but overlooked is the addition to the south called Palazzina della Meridiana. The neoclassic building was conceived as a separate wing reserved for the royal rulers, a place apart from the main palace.

Designed by architect Gaspare Paoletti, it was constructed starting in 1778 for Grand duke Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine. It was finished in 1813, but then was further expanded from 1822-1840 to add more rooms, including a grand ballroom. The Palazzina della Meridiana gets its name from a sundial that was painted on the facade; though others say an antique time-keeping device was found at the location. Still others hold it is named for its southern position (meridione means "south").

The salons of the Palazzina della Meridiana were the home of some of the most important rulers, including Maria Luisa di Borbone (Duchess of Lucca, the "Spanish Infanta"); Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, Ferdinand III; and Umberto and Margherita of Savoy. Take a guided tour of the halls and enjoy the opulent charm; imagine dancing below the paintings of Minerva, Apollo, Venus and Mars. Ascend the staircase and think about the powerful figures whose steps you're tracing. Gaze out the windows at Florence and the Boboli Gardens.

The Palazzina della Meridiana is home to the Museum of Costumes, and hosts special exhibits. Full guided tours are offered every first Sunday of each month.

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Address in Florence:

Piazza de' Pitti, 1.

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