Grandsom of Giles Stibbert, commander-in-chief for the British East India Company in Bengal, Frederick Stibbert (1838–1906) fought with Garibaldi and hobnobbed with Queen Victoria, and inherited millions, which he spent on buying stuff. You can savour his lifetime’s accumulations in Florence’s most bizarre museum, and its nicest small park, laid out by Stibbert, complete with a mouldering Egyptian temple sinking in a pond.
Stibbert’s Italian mother left him a 14th-century house, which he enlarged, joining it to another house to create a sumptuous Victorian version of what a medieval Florentine house should have looked like – 64 rooms to contain a pack-rat’s hoard of all things brilliant and useless, from an attributed Botticelli to snuff boxes, to what a local guide intriguingly describes as ‘brass and silver basins, used daily by Stibbert’. You'll find sets of porcelain (including 18th-century Ginori settings), a portrait of Francesco I by Agnolo Bronzino, Medici portraits by Justus Sustermans, two paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Younger and a terracotta Madonna and Child by Nanni di Bartolo.
Stibbert’s serious passion, however, was armour, and he amassed a magnificent collection of 16,000 pieces from all times and places. The best pieces are not arranged in dusty cases, but, with a touch of Hollywood, on grim knightly mannequins ranked ready for battle. There's a special concentration on Samurai armour and swords, and if it's not the best collection in Italy, it must be close.
Via Stibbert 26
Hours Mon-Wed 10am-2pm, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm; closed Thurs
Adm €8; ages 4-12 €6, under 4 free
+39 055 475520
Images by: Sailko, GNU Creative Commons License, DanyJack Mercier