Palazzo Morrocchi is a building of both architectural and historical importance, centrally located on via Cavour, one of the city's most prestigious streets, which runs from the Cathedral in Piazza Duomo through the north of the city centre and out onto the boulevards.
For almost a quarter of a century from 1848 this palace was the base of the avant-garde Florentine and Tuscan group of artists known as "I Macchiaioli". The renowned name Macchiaioli, recalls the term "macchia" (literally meaning patch or spot) which relates to the innovative technique of painting with large spots to capture natural light, shade and colour. The movement which was born, which passionately debated, which conceived its most revolutionary ideas and which eventually died inside Café Michelangelo in Palazzo Morrocchi, revolved around prominent figures of Italian and worldwide culture, the leading names in Tuscany, such as Giovanni Fattori, Telemaco Signorini, Silvestro Lega, Raffaello Sernesi, Giuseppe Abbati, Odoardo Borrani, Vito d'Ancona, Serafino de Tivoli, Adriano Cecioni and Cristiano Banti, to name but a few of the figures who used to gather in the internal room, reserved for the artists and their friends (as depicted in caricature in the watercolour by Adriano Cecioni). In the history of Café Michelangelo you can identify an important era in the history of Tuscan art and hence a large part of the art history of Italy. The commemorative plaque written by the painter Ardengo Soffici which is still visible on the façade of the Palazzo, also reminds us of the history, the unique atmosphere and the eminent names which gave such fame to this great historical artists' café in Florence. It reads: "In this building was housed the Café Michelango, the congenial meeting place of a group of free artists who Florence cleverly named the Macchiaioli and whose work, born amidst political struggle and war-like heroism of the national Risorgimento, broke with the traditional conventions of Italian painting, renewing the spirit." A regular visitor to Café Michelangelo joining the Macchaioli was the academic painter Annibale Gatti (born in Forlì in 1827), who was very much respected and admired by his contemporaries. Costantino Morrocchi, owner of the Palazzo, approached him to paint frescoes on the first floor of his residence, above the Café. It is here that we see Annibale give life to one of his most interesting creations, decorating the vast wooden ceiling of the main hall which today looks out onto via Cavour. He painted wonderful scenes of lyrical opera and allegorical paintings in his style bridging Romanticism and Realism, showing a great sensitivity of tone and an effortless ease which translates onto the walls the freshness of a bold, carefree hand. It is the element of light which truly unites the frescoes; a measured dose of greys, lightened by sudden tones of blues and pinks, and shining brilliance. The recently restored Palazzo has conserved, intact, its internal paintings and decorative artwork which still gives it its original splendour.