The relationship between Munich and Italy did not begin with the first big wave of holiday makers in the 1950s or the triumph of the pizza. No. It goes back many centuries. When a woman from Florence walks through Munich, she probably thinks: “Who copied my city? Here is the Palazzo Pitti, there the Loggia dei Lanzi and over there the Foundling Hospital by Brunelleschi.” The original buildings can be visited in Florence. But who brought them to Munich?
1st stop: Max-Joseph-Platz
When starting your walk on Max-Joseph-Platz, you will immediately be reminded of Florence. Because the facade of the Residenz looks a lot like the original Palazzo Pitti, which stands in the city on the River Arno. The Pittis were one of the most prominent and influential noble families of renaissance Florence. They built a showy palazzo at the heart of the city clad with roughly hewn stone blocks, making it look more like a medieval castle than an elegant city palace. Leo von Klenze, the court architect of Ludwig I, toned down this forbidding, gruff effect in his interpretation of the design by combining the Palazzo Pitti with another palazzo, the Palazzo Ruccelai by Leon Battista Alberti. Alberti was one of the great theoreticians of the renaissance. He reintroduced the classic Roman facade structure with the classic order of columns across the storeys: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. That is why the Residenz by Klenze looks a lot more structured and less like a stronghold.
Immediately opposite, you will find the newly refurbished Residenzpost. The model from Florence is called Ospedale degli Innocenti (Foundling Hospital) and is one of the icons of renaissance architecture, built by star architect Filippo Brunelleschi. Leo von Klenze slightly changed the facade, because this building was not built onto an open space but was merely added onto an already existing baroque palace as a new facade. This means the proportions are different to those of the original building. Leo von Klenze also had the idea for the Pompeian red in the portico. The irony: the baroque palace behind the added-on facade was destroyed during the war and has disappeared completely. The facade still stands intact.
U-Bahn (underground): on foot from Marienplatz or Odeonsplatz. Tram: service 19. Get off at: Nationaltheater
2nd stop: Square in front of the Feldherrnhalle
On the square in front of the Theatinerkirche, another Florentine sight awaits: the Loggia dei Lanzi – in Munich it is called Feldherrnhalle. The original is a medieval portico, which houses an exhibition of significant renaissance sculptures, among them Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini and the Rape of the Sabine Women by Jean de Boulogne, called Giambologna. In Munich, the hall was dedicated to a couple of Bavarian military leaders, Johann Tilly and Karl Philipp von Wrede. The sculptures in Munich are not major pieces of historic art. But the hall nonetheless is an important part of the square. It gives the square a soft ending. This was the effect the architect Friedrich von Gärtner intended. The Feldherrnhalle is not just a copy. The crucial difference is: Gärtner’s hall is slightly raised, making it look a lot more monumental than the original in Florence.
U-Bahn (underground): Odeonsplatz U3, U4, U5, U6
3rd stop: Ludwigstraße
Until the 18th century, Munich ended on the square in front of the Theatinerkirche, where the city walls began. The Schwabing city gates used to stand here. Through them, you could leave Munich towards the north. Behind the gates, the countryside began. Here, Ludwig I started his most ambitious project, a grand Roman-style avenue. A via triumphalis for Munich, one kilometre long. The first half was designed by Leo von Klenze, following the example of Roman and Florentine palazzi. However, Klenze complained to King Ludwig I: “...Munich is not Rome, and Herr Meyer is not a Signore Farese or Pitti.” He also said: “The Munich building contractors are too poor, and the northern desire to generously let in the little light the sun provides and to then heat the rooms in winter does not go with the Italian architecture.” In short, the monumental palazzi with their high-ceilinged rooms and small windows did not really suit the cold and rainy Munich climate. But no matter. It was the appearance that counted.
The huge street put the still quite small town of Munich under considerable strain. At first, it was hard to find building contractors and tenants. When half of Ludwigstraße was complete, King Ludwig I changed architect. The second half was designed by Friedrich von Gärtner, whose round-arch style was perceived as more modern back then. Ludwigstraße ends with the Siegestor (triumphal arch). The Siegestor is, of course, based on the Roman Arch of Constantine.
On foot from Odeonsplatz (see above).
One man is behind all these copies: King Ludwig I. His grand visions gave Munich the impulse it needed. At the beginning of the 19th century, the cities of Europe changed. The medieval town walls had become obsolete and were pulled down to let the towns grow. Room was created for new districts, parks and avenues. Like many Bavarian monarchs before him, Ludwig I travelled to Italy. But contrary to his predecessors, he no longer found Italy to be the flourishing economic power it had been for so many centuries, with rich republics such as Florence or Venice. Ludwig I looked at Italy like a romantic traveller with a historic passion for the renaissance and antiquity. He wanted to bring this past splendour to Munich – and thereby set himself a monument.
The Italian walks take around 1.5 hours.