The Villa Medici was built between 1564 and 1574 by two Florentine architects, Giovanni Lippi (better known as Nanni di Baccio Bigio) and his son Annibale, for the nephews of Cardinal Ricci di Montepulciano.
In 1576 Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici (1549-1609) purchased the villa and asked another Florentine architect, Bartolomeo Ammannati, to enlarge it. It soon came to be regarded as one of the grandest residences in Rome, noted, in particular, for its collection of classical sculpture.
In 1587 Ferdinando had to renounce his cardinal's hat and return to Florence to succeed his elder brother Francesco as Grand Duke of Tuscany. The villa remained in the Medici family until 1801 when it was bought by Napoleon. Two years later it became the seat of the French Academy.
The rather plain exterior of the villa contrasts sharply with its richly decorated garden facade.