Behind the imposing Pitti Palace, the garden awaits you with its stories
The Boboli Gardens are historic green spaces in Florence, famous all over the world, loved by locals and tourists: this green heart of Florence can be considered an open air museum, rich in history and art, as well as a precious refuge from the city’s summer heat. Behind the imposing Pitti Palace, the garden awaits you with its stories, secret corners and fascinating routes. Here we tell you a little bit about it, moving between great stories and curiosities.
HISTORY The first nucleus of the garden, just behind the Pitti Palace, dates back to the sixteenth century and the typical Renaissance style is easily distinguished. Subsequent extensions and modifications (with ponds, fountains, temples and caves) began with Cosimo II who, during the 1600s, also restored and expanded the palace itself. The original design is by Niccolò Pericoli (Tribolo); following his premature death, the work fell under the direction of important artists such as Bartolomeo Ammannati and Bernardo Buontalenti.
Boboli is a typical example of Italian landscape art: regular and geometric areas, bordered by small and large paths, are alternated by more hidden and protected areas - Giardino del Cavaliere, Giardino della Limonaia, Giardino dell’Isola, Prato di Madama (now lost) - dedicated to herbs, shrubs and especially flowers. Then there are still smaller and exclusive spaces attached to the private apartments of the Medici family, such as the Giardinetto del Pincipe Mattias /Garden of the Camellias. The Boboli garden was (partially) opened to the public for the first time during the reign of Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS The horseshoe amphitheater that greets visitors entering from the main entrance of the Palazzo Pitti is actually placed at the point where the hill was excavated to remove the stone (pietraforte) used to build the palace itself. The Ocean Fountain, which today is located in the south-west of the garden (L'Isolotto), was once at the center of the amphitheater, where we can still see the Egyptian obelisk placed here in 1790, the only one of its kind in Tuscany.
The Giardino del Cavaliere (Knight’s garden) is one of the walled gardens of Boboli. The name comes from the location: it’s built over ("a cavallo”) a bastion that is part of the fortifications of the city built by Michelangelo. Here, the low hedges surround rare species of dahlias and roses. The central fountain is called “of the Monkey” because of the three bronze monkeys at the base. Here there is also the building called the Casino del Cavaliere, now home to the Museum of Porcelain, under which there is a large water tank from which the irrigation system of the garden begins. The Limonaia – The Medici family introduced the fashion of the citrus groves in the gardens. The citrus were considered exotic plants. During the area’s cold winters they need to be put indoors. Boboli thus has its own Limonaia, the special building used for this purpose, derived from transformation of a pre-existing mosaics and statues factory. At the time of Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo this was also the home of the exotic animals, including a hippopotamus. The Kaffeehaus - this singular Rococo pavilion offers a splendid view of the city.
SOME CURIOSITIES The Boboli garden is also the point of arrival of the Vasari Corridor. Near the exit on Piazza Pitti, there is the Fountain of Bacchus, which depicts the obese dwarf Morgante, the most popular of the dwarves of the court of Cosimo I.
Hidden among the trees you can see two strange semi-underground domes: these are the old iceboxes, used to preserve food for the Court, along with the ice which was brought in from the mountains. Boboli has a huge collection of old rose varieties. It’s connected to Forte Belvedere, but the door between the two is currently closed.
Since June, 2013, Boboli Gardens is a Unesco World Heritage Site.