[Warning: lots of images. If I break your computer, I'm sorry. But I can't help it. The fever is upon me.]
After buying a ticket, you climb the stairs to the first floor and enter the enormous grand ballroom.
A door in the back corner leads to the apartments, where the roof of a small passageway hints at what is to come.
I stood in this tiny corridor for ages, annoying tourists and getting a crick in my neck. Which was silly, considering how many more ceilings were to come.
First up is the room of Cosimo il Vecchio (1389-1464) who, the museum explains, is "[the] founder of the main branch of the Medici family." He is Cosimo the Elder, the wealthy man who shepherded Florence (and the house of Medici) into power and prosperity during the late14th and early 15th centuries.
It is also thanks to Cosimo that the walls and ceilings of these apartments (and the amazing ceilings of the Uffizi Gallery) are swarming with grotesques. He is the one who actively facilitated - and funded - exciting new artistic projects in Florence, beginning with his own house. Chief designer and groteskologist for these renovations was Giorgio Vasari, a key mover in the history of the grotesque in art (who has been mentioned on this blog before).
Anyway, the good stuff.
The roof, the walls; hybrid creatures swing and tangle everywhere.
The colours are fantastic, as you can see, while the designs are still sharp and well preserved. The next room (belonging to Lorenzo the Magnificent) continues in this vein, only more, and larger.
Most of the grotesques are quite high, but I tried to get some closer images along the way.
This goes on, room after room.
Some of my favourite rooms belong to Cosimo I de' Medici's wife, Eleonora of Toledo [Edit: I should make clear that this is a different Cosimo: 1519 - 1574!]. I love them because Cosimo and Georgio have clearly taken Eleonora's gender and interests into consideration: there is a distinct 'green' theme with lots of animals and plants; the frescoes on the walls depict various heroic women from history and mythology; and lots of the grotesque figures are overtly female.
Now, all these pics might leave you making this face...
... but seriously. I've never seen true grotesques in the wild like this, let alone such an exceptional example of the traditional style.
It's quite overwhelming in person; having them swarming all over, above and around you. Deliberately excessive and distracting.
This is something to keep in mind when I post about my recent visit to the Domus Aurea. (Yes, I'm in Rome now - bit behind with the old blogging. Too much stuff to see.)