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At the Court of the Grand Duke

Illustrazione a colori di una carrozza in processione per la Festa di S. Giovanni Battista a Firenze

Whether they were interested in the political backdrop of their journey or not (indeed there were some who undertook it for this very reason, and for them Tuscany, the Papal States, Venice and the other Italian cities constituted an observatory of the most varied political forms), tourists were immersed, on their arrival in Tuscany, in the reality of the Grand Duchy, which pervaded every aspect of the place, from the economy to people's daily lives. The grand dukes - each, obviously, according to his own personality and understanding - influenced every level of existence and the outward signs of their power left a mark on the landscape of the cities: impossible not to mention them, even when investigating the science of government was not among the primary aims of the journey. This resulted, in the more ambitious literary accounts, in inserts of an erudite character that covered the history of the various Tuscan cities up to the traveler's own day; and in the more 'militant' ones, in verdicts on their political history and its protagonists, with anecdotes, evaluations and assessments. A desire to summarize that was intended to provide readers with a guide to understanding the present state of the cities, or a more or less undisguised attempt at politically committed commentary.

More frequently, and without the pedantry that the historical digression sometimes entailed, the presence of the grand-ducal family (or its conspicuous absence, as in the case of Lucca) and the mark it left on the life of the places were encapsulated in the buildings where its authority was exercised; buildings that became part of the main artistic itinerary for visitors, above all in Florence but also in the other cities.
In parallel, the more fabulous side of power, that of wealth and privilege, was celebrated in the admiring and meticulous description of the various grand-ducal villas scattered over the hills in the environs of the city.


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