Entro dei ponti tuoi multicolori
L'Arno presago quietamente arena
E in riflessi tranquilli frange appena
Archi severi tra sfiorir di fiori
Azzurro l'arco dell'intercolonno
trema rigato tra i palazzi eccelsi:
Candide righe nell'azzurro: persi
Voli: su bianca gioventù in colonne.
A historical venue of the main meeting & incentive industry events in Florence and in Central Italy, Palazzo dei Congressi is hosted inside the nineteenth-century Villa Vittoria, a property of the Region of Tuscany since 1990, now entrusted to Firenze Fiera SpA.
Between 1886 and 1891, Gerolamo Passeri, a pupil of architect Giuseppe Poggi, directed the construction works of this luxurious and welcoming venue on behalf of Marquis Massimiliano Strozzi di Mantova. In 1925, according to a project by architect Michelucci, the villa was enlarged by building a mezzanine (Belvedere), and this led to reach the current structure. The original building was based on a rectangular plan with two floors and two extensions on both sides, following the schemes of the neo- 16th century villas, and with a monumental staircase connecting the ground floor to the first floor and to a gallery overlooked by large reception halls. The halls still have their original charm, displaying a succession of vaults with lunette webs on the ground floor, finely decorated coffer ceilings on the first floor, marble and terracotta mosaic flooring, stone portals and marble inlays, elegant coats of arms, fine wrought-iron gates and precious polychrome glass windows. In 1931, the villa was acquired by Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, who made
it his habitual residence. He called it Villa Vittoria in honour of his wife, Vittoria Galli, who always helped him buy the most interesting ancient furniture and works of art. This led to the creation of the most prestigious private collections of that time. The two Milanese architects Gio’ Ponti and Tommaso Buzzi subsequently designed the third floor as a private residence in an elegant 1930s style. This is where the “modern painting collection” was hosted, featuring works by contemporary artists such as Giorgio De Chirico, Mario Sironi, Ottone Rosai, Primo Conti, Armando Spadini, Carlo Carrà, Marino Marini and Ardengo Soffici.
In 1955, after the death of Count Alessandro, the Contini Bonaccossi collection was lost and only a part was given to the State. One hundred and forty-four works were moved to the Meridiana building in Palazzo Pitti and then to the Uffizi Gallery, where they still are. In 1964, the villa was acquired by the Independent Tourist Board and was turned into an International Congress Center according to a project by architect Pierluigi Spadolini. He designed the Auditorium on the basement, inaugurated in 1969, seating up to 1,000 people, and with an adjacent exhibiting area of 920 square metres. The various meeting halls are distributed on the floors, seating up to 50, 80 (Sala Onice- Onyx Hall) and 200 participants (Sala Verde – Green Hall), and they are equipped with all the comforts and the most advanced facilities.
Surrounded by a century-old park – according to the original project by Poggi - Palazzo dei Congressi, along with the adjacent Limonaia (Lemon-House) is located in front of Palazzo degli Affari and it is connected to the 16th-century Fortezza da Basso through a pedestrian square, forming an exclusive fair and congress citadel of 80,000 square metres inside the very heart of the city.