If you’re looking for a break from tourists and the long lines of Florence’s art museums, you might be interested in a Florentine “green” escape. For a peaceful break from the city bustle, tourists tend to venture to the countryside to explore the wonders of the natural world. But you don’t need to leave the city walls to find a quiet place for some much-needed peace and quiet; here, you’ll find luscious and beautiful gardens hidden behind Florence’s impressive city walls.
Your first stop is the Florence Botanical Garden, otherwise known as the Giardino dei Semplici (Garden of simples). This botanical garden, today part of the University of Florence (via Micheli 3) is very close to the San Marco Museum and church. The space is a small paradise smack in the center of the city, offering tranquility and shady areas away from the bustle of central Florence. Its 2.3 hectares of space are open weekdays in the morning. The garden was originally the Medici's family medicine garden (established in 1545 by Cosimo I de' Medici). Unbeknownst to many, it’s also the third oldest botanical garden after those in Pisa and Padua. In 1753, when the Società Botanica was formed, the garden's layout was slightly altered to house an "experimental agricultural" area. Today, the garden contains over 9,000 species of plants, including different types of trees, herbs, flowers, fruit trees, a lily pond, a Japanese-style garden, carnivorous plants and a lovely fountain.
As Florence’s most famous garden, this quiet and peaceful oasis is immersed in the best of Florentine art and history! When your energy is low and you’re not up for biking or taking the bus to the countryside, this garden is your perfect solution. The Boboli Gardens are the famous garden of the old Medici residence, Palazzo Pitti. The garden was originally designed in 1549 by the sculptor Tribolo; the renaissance design was made as simple as possible for the non-uniform level of the garden grounds. A century after its creation, the garden was transformed by many prominent designers and architects. It became Florence's grandest garden, vaunting early-Baroque elements and avenues, which suited the theatrical events held in the open air. Inside the garden you’ll also find the Buontalenti grotto (1583-1593) decorated with Mannerist-style scenes from Greek and Roman mythology. The grotto also includes copies of Michelangelo's famous Slave series (the originals were transferred to the Galleria dell'Accademia). In the 17th century, the garden was extended as far as Porta Romana (Florence’s southern gate), which saw the addition of the Vasca d'Isola, an impressive pond found at the center of this new area featuring a fountain and statue of Neptune. In the late 18th century, Zanobi del Rosso added the Kaffehaus pavilion. The Boboli Gardens afford incredible views of Florence, so be sure to leave plenty of time to wander through the garden’s many areas, as there’s something to discover at every turn!
If you made it to the Boboli Gardens, then add the Bardini Garden to your list, as your entrance ticket includes both sites! This garden is not as well known as Boboli, even to Florentine residents. Built by the Mozzi family, the garden was later bought by a famous antique dealer whose villa is now next door: today’s Bardini Museum (entrance is across the street). Bardini left the museum to the City of Florence and the garden to his son, who donated the space to the city after his death in the 1960s. For the following 40 years the garden fell into terrible disrepair! Thanks to the aid of a local bank and the creation of a garden foundation, restoration works began in 2000, reopening the space to the public in recent years.
Another cool spot to visit is Florence's Roster Tepidarium and the Horticulture Garden dating to 1862. This is the largest greenhouse you’ll find in all of Italy. This Liberty-style building was left unused for several years and was recently transformed into a real 'garden of Eden' populated with hundreds of different plants, flower and butterfly species. A bar in the area serves delicious tea types in fine Ginori porcelain, allowing you to enjoy the green area while admiring over 400 multi-colored butterflies. This is the perfect place to relax after a long, hot day, a place where you can bring a book or just sit back and relax while admiring these wonderful surroundings.