It was 1677 when my family was named Marquis of San Quirico d'Orcia and Bagno Vignoni by Cosimo III de' Medici. I, Cardinal Flavio Chigi, was 46 and had been cardinal for 20 years. Our new ownership greatly pleased me because of its location, almost halfway between Florence and Rome and not far from Siena. The road that crossed it was the largest route linking Northern Europe and Rome. They called it the Via Francigena and on the road, popes, emperors, simple travellers and people of all ranks had passed through San Quirico. Even my uncle, Fabio Chigi, passed through here when he came back from his beloved Siena and passed here once more when he went to Rome to become Pope Alexander VII. It was a suitable place for receiving guests thanks to its location and for its monuments, which, I noticed, had developed precisely along the axis of the road and included Romanesque churches, the Collegiata dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta at the beginning of the village and the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, with its doors facing out onto the road.
During my inspection, I reflected on the construction of a Palazzo at San Quirico, concluding that the Horti Leonini, an Italian garden from the 1580s inserted in the area adjacent to the walls of the fortress, would suit me perfectly. The designer was Diomede Leoni, a friend of the great Buonarroti. In fact, it is said that when he was in the service of the Medici in Rome and met many people, Leoni managed to convince Michelangelo to help him design the garden, then a public park where no one had built homes. Of course, there were already some buildings here. There was the keep, but the architect Carlo Fontana thought it might be the perfect place for a building to welcome our distinguished guests. But it had to be beautiful and large and the Horti was too small. So we created a piazza to squeeze it between the Chiesa dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta and the Palazzo Pretorio. Work began in 1679. I was afraid it would go on forever. Instead it ended early and was built just like I wanted. To speed up the frescoes, I went to Rome and called a team of painters, who worked in summer, covering larger areas because the colour dried so quickly.
The facade of a beautiful purple converses with the travertine monuments, crimson curtains on the windows, ceilings with zodiac signs and mythological subjects and walls covered with stamped leather the colour of silver and ruby. To lighten the space, we reproduced on some of the walls the color dell’aria so dear to Bernini, the trusted architect of Uncle Fabio and teacher to my architect. In my 36 years as a cardinal, I attended five conclaves without ever becoming Pope. I was always the "Cardinal-Nephew." But in the Roman art world, I am remembered as a generous patron and benefactor, and that’s good enough for me.