The Medici oranges

The Medici are known as great collectors and patrons of art and literature. Many also know about their great passion for botany and gardens. Almost every estate owned by the Medici family was equipped with magnificent parks that we can still admire and visit today, like the Boboli Gardens.
What not everyone knows though, is that they were also great citrus enthusiasts!

Since the Middle Ages, the cultivation of citrus fruits for medicinal purposes had been present in Florence. Thanks to travels and trades in the East, these fruits arrived here and immediately fascinated the members of the Medici family, who had always been very curious people, attracted by the wonders of nature.
The production of citrus fruits then continued with Cosimo the Elder, Piero the Gouty and Lorenzo the Magnificent, but it was with Cosimo I, in the sixteenth century, that this passion for citrus fruits became proper collectionism. The Medici cultivated citrus fruits for their own use and consumption, to be used as a special gift to send to rulers and important people, but also for the propaganda purposes of the dynasty: Cosimo I often associated the myth of the garden of the Hesperides and the idea of ​​the return of a new Golden age with its own government.
It was he, who also introduced the novelty of citrus fruits pot cultivation for which there was no precedent.
Cosimo III later commissioned several paintings that immortalized on canvas the many varieties of citrus fruits - oranges, citrons and lemons - which over the years had been crossed together to create even the strangest combinations.
First of all among these, the one called "Bizzarria", precisely because it is an absolutely bizarre and unusual-looking creation.

is a so-called grafting "chimera", which possesses the genetic characteristics of the bitter orange, but presents itself as three different species of citrus fruits: bitter orange, citron and lemon, contained simultaneously in the same fruit. The plant bears rather large fruits that are different every year, with lumpy skin, variegated in orange, yellow and green.
It is thanks to the Florentine Paolo Galeotti, one of the leading citrus experts in the world and curator of the botanical collections of Villa Medicea di Castello and the nearby Villa Corsini, that was possible the rediscovery of Bizzarria, traces of which had disappeared for almost two centuries.
Until 1980, in fact, when Galeotti found some sprigs of it near Florence and replanted it to see the magnificent fruits grow three years later.
In addition to the Bizzarria, among the varieties of citrus fruit attributable to the Medici era we find the bitter orange, the citron from Florence, the limoncello from Naples and the Adam's apple.
The doctors loved all citrus fruits, but especially oranges, the symbolic fruit of the family. In fact, according to one of the hypotheses on the symbolism of the Medici coat of arms, the 5 red balls on the yellow shield could actually be oranges!

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