The Palazzo Strozzi is one of the great Renaissance masterpieces of palatial architecture. The palace stands on a square with the same name, in the very heart of historical Florence. The palace was built by the architect Giuliano da Sangalo in the 15th century for the Strozzi family, one of Florence’s most powerful dynasties. In order to make way for the palace, 15 surrounding houses had to be pulled down, an act of demolition which caused a dust cloud so thick that for days locals could hardly see their hand in front of their face. For centuries the Strozzi were the Medici’s greatest rivals, and like the Medici their wealth was based on a powerful network of banks which provided loans to the royal families of Europe. The palace built for the Strozzi reflected the vast wealth they had accumulated. The palace is also a classic example of Renaissance palatial architecture: a vast three-storey edifice built from rusticated stone and embellished with paired windows set in arches on the higher floors and large square windows on the ground floor.
Filippo Strozzi, who commissioned the palace, did not live to see its completion. Shortly after his death the palace was confiscated by the Medici, and it was returned to its legal owners only after a thirty-year period, then remaining the seat of the Strozzi for centuries until 1937. From the outside the Palazzo Strozzi appears vast, yet strictly minimalistic and fiercely sober, but the view from the inner courtyard, surrounded by an elegant arcade supported by slender columns, is less severe, generating an atmosphere of calm, peace and security. The Palazzo Strozzi stretches underground to a startling depth of nine metres. In large part owing to these mighty foundations the palace has stood for five centuries without ever requiring major repair work. Thus the Palazzo Strozzi has been preserved perfectly, exactly as it looked half a millennium ago, complete even with original torch holders and rings for tying up horses. The palace today accommodates an art gallery and an exhibition hall.