The story of the Medici family, which despite their power and wealth operated within a republic in Florence (albeit one which they controlled) and which provided both the money and artistic support behind what we now call the Renaissance, is an amazing one. I thought Season 1, which followed the life of family patriarch Cosimo il Vecchio (the elder), tarted up the story too much, inventing murder plots and dramatic scenes when the real-life story was quite absorbing enough. Midway through the second season, which deals with the life of Lorenzo, they are doing a bit better.
The Medici didn’t just bankroll young artists — they befriended them. The painter known as Botticelli basically grew up with Lorenzo and his brothers; Lorenzo later provided a home for the young Michelangelo. The scene where Botticelli meets his Venus is one to wait for – and yes, it is the same Vespucci family. (We think of the Renaissance and the discovery of the New World as discrete events, but in fact they occurred concurrently.).
The cast uses mostly British actors in the main roles, and mostly Italians in the others.
Spoiler alert – Sean Bean plays Jacopo Pazzi.
Personal note – we were recently in the city of Mantova (Mantua) and the lady who ran our B and B told us her daughter was involved in the filming of this series. Due to the difficulty of location shooting in Florence, Rome and Milan, the film crew used the small town of Sabbionetta, near Mantova, which has many unspoiled Renaissance-era buildings. It’s been fun, watching this show, to see some of the places we had just been.
Recommended, with reservations. Currently running in Italy, but will be on Netflix before too long.