The cultural, artistic and literary contributions accompanying the economic changes we have just mentioned cannot simply be considered as descriptive or celebratory refl ections of these events. They signify, instead, a new social awareness, advancement, consolidation and, frequently, far-sightedness. Thus, on the one hand, these additional forms of expression were of major importance in supporting the advancement of the middle-classes and their view of the world, and, on the other, they supplied the very soil which gave rise to the studies of the specialist treatises, an attempt to produce the kind of building that was relevant to their particular ways of life. We shall move on to examine some aspects of these cultural outposts and to trace the thematic variations related to the evolution of the productive and residential role of the extra-urban villa. The movement of middle-class townsmen to the countryside was the most striking event of the time in the Florentine area and it coincided with the city’s greatest period of expansion, following Arnolfo’s enlargement of the city. The enthusiastic nature of this trend quite understandably amazed outsiders and foreigners, while being commended by contemporary local historians. Giovanni Villani, according to Burckhardt the leading authority on the fashion for building villas around Florence, wrote in his Cronaca, before the mid-14th century: “There was no citizen, high or low, who had not built, or was not in the process of building, a large and expensive property in the surrounding countryside, with a handsome dwelling and fi ne buildings, much better than in the city. And all were guilty of this and were thought to be mad because of the extravagant expenditure. It was such a magnifi cent sight that those coming from outside and not familiar with Florence believed that the fi ne buildings and beautiful palaces in a three-mile band outside the town made it a Roman style city.”1