Isolotto's Bacin, on the right Perseus on Horseback
I Giardini di Boboli (Boboli's Gardens)
Italian art city par excellence, Florence is also a surprisingly green metropolis, home to numerous splendid gardens.
Annexed to the Palazzo Pitti Museum complex, the Boboli Garden is one of the most famous formal 16th century Italian gardens and a veritable open air museum, with a unique architectural plan and dozens of statues hiding amidst the multicoloured plants. The garden has a triangular plan, with two, steeply sloping orthogonal axes, which terminate in the Bacino di Nettuno (fountain of Neptune).
The creation of artificial grottoes was an introduction of Mannerist style to Italian, and then to French, gardens of the mid 16th century. Two famous grottoes in the Boboli Gardens of Palazzo Pitti were begun by Vasari and completed by Ammanati and Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593. The lemonscent is always in the air, as the Boboli gardens has a great collection of old lemonplants in terracotta pots. In the winter the lemonplants are brought to the 'limonaia' where they are protected against the winter cold.
The Boboli gardens lie directly behind the Pitti Palace and were created for the Medici when they moved in during 1550. They really are spectacular because of the mixture of art and gardens sitting together, side by side, in harmony.
In 1766 the gardens were opened to the public and in 1992 a small entrance fee was introduced but this is so small as to be negligible. It is a haven of peace and quiet in a very noisy city and the views over Florence and the Tuscan countryside are breathtaking.
The gardens were originally designed by Niccolò Pericoli but after his death a variety of people had a hand in completing the gardens including Davide Fortini, Giorgio Vasari and Bartolomeo Ammannati. Despite this, the original design was followed and the gardens have pretty much remained the same ever since.
The entrance to the gardens leads directly to the amphitheatre with the fountain designed by Giambologna. This was where the first ever opera performance was held and it is quite an impressive sight.
Grotta del Buontalenti
Boboli Gardens are still distinguished by a number of important statues by Giambologna, in particular the Fontana dell'Oceano created in 1574 – 7 but moved to the Isolotto by Parigi. Other famous sculptures include the Nano Morgante by Valerio Cioli (1529 – 99), a naked fat dwarf riding a tortoise, supposedly an allegory of laziness and wisdom.
La Fontana del Bacchino
Its creation and development spans four hundred years between the 15th and 19th centuries. The gardens laid out behind Santa Felicita in Oltrarno by the Borgolo family, the name from which Boboli is thought to derive, were bought in 1418 by Luca Pitti. In the mid-15th century Pitti commissioned the construction of a grand palace, which is believed to have been designed by Luca Fancelli,with the help of his master Filippo Brunelleschi. In 1549 the property was bought by Cosimo I’s wife Eleonora da Toledo, and became the Medici family’s city residence. Niccolò Tribolo was engaged to design the gardens, and it is probably he who excavated the hill to create the Amphitheatre, a highly successful creation in both perspective and functional terms.It created the garden’s first perspective vista (running north-west/south-east), a prospect that began at the main entrance to the palace and continued across to the hill and all the way to Forte Belvedere. When Tribolo died, work continued under the direction of Bartolomeo Ammannati (15111592) and subsequently Bernardo Buontalenti (1555-1635).In the 17th century Giulio Parigi (1568-1635) and his son Alfonso devised the second perspective vista,which was to run at right angles to the first,in the direction of Porta Romana.The triangular garden has two orthogonal axes which meet roughly at the Fountain-Basin of Neptune; the steeply sloping avenues run across the central walk and are organised as a series of terraces with smaller avenues, footpaths, sculptures or landscaping elements leading to specific garden features:glades,enclosed gardens or buildings.The visit begins at the fountain featuring the statue of a dwarf riding a tortoise,sculpted in 1560 by Valerio Cigoli (1529-1599). Opposite the entrance is the Buontalenti Grotto,a series of three communicating chambers: the first, with stuccowork decorations, is characterised by pastoral scenes executed by Bernardino Poccetti (1542-1612); the second contains a marble statue group depicting the abduction of Helen by Paris, sculpted by Vincenzo Rossi da Fiesole (1525-1587); the third, frescoed by Poccianti,has a fine fountain by Giambologna (1529-1608) depicting Venus emerging from the water after bathing.Beyond the statues of the Dacian Prisoners, the route through the gardens continues and,next to the rising avenue,passes the Jupiter Garden with a seated statue of Jupiter and the adjoining Madama Garden.The avenue leads up to the grand Amphitheatre and the Artichoke Fountain, whose large octagonal basin is decorated with numerous statues and crowned by a bronze artichoke by Francesco Susini. The great horseshoe-shaped sweep of the amphitheatre was possibly originally conceived as a piece of landscaping, and in 1599 was embellished with steps (still in existence) topped by aedicules with niches containing bronze statues and terracotta urns. The granite basin is taken from the Baths of Caracalla, while the obelisk, which arrived in Rome in 30 BC from Egypt, was brought to Boboli in 1790 by Pierre Léopold,who commissioned Gaspero Paoletti (1727-1813) to design a plinth adorned with bronze tortoises; it was erected at the centre of the amphitheatre in 1841. The main avenue leads to the Bacino di Nettuno reached by a dual ramp, at the beginning of which stand three Roman statues.The basin is dominated by the bronze statue of Neptune by Lorenzi (1534-1583):the ancient god of the sea stands on a rocky spur decorated with naiads and tritons, at the centre of a large fountain-basin surrounded by stepped turfed terraces,at the top of which, among holm-oaks, stands the colossal statue of Abundance,sculpted in around 1636 by Pietro Tacca. Here, at the point where the ancient city walls once stood,the original garden came to an end. On a cavaliere, or rampart of the walls built by Michelangelo in 1529,stands the Giardino del Cavaliere, reached by a double staircase, at either side of which stand two statues of the Muses.The niches contain statues of Flora and Jupiter, early works by Giovanni Caccini.At the centre of the garden, which is bordered by low box hedges,stands a fountain with a central marble cherub. This ornamental work is known as the “monkey fountain”because of the three bronze primates at its base. Underneath the Casino del Cavaliere building is a large water storage area known as the trout reservoir, from which the pipes that supply water to the entire garden lead off.To the east of the Amphitheatre, near the Statue of Abundance is the Kaffeehause, a Rococo-style pavilion by Zanobi del Rosso, with a characteristic glazed dome.This small building stands on a stepped lawn at the centre of which is the 17th-century Ganymede Fountain. The Kaffeehause can be considered to be the visual focal point of the park’s second main thoroughfare, the steeply descending Viottolone. The beginning of this avenue is marked by two statues known as the “Greek Tyrannicides” and its route is lined on both sides by ancient statues,mainly Roman or 18th century.Three smaller avenues leading off at right angles from the Viottolone divide the garden, which has seen a number of changes over the centuries, including the laying out of the Labirinto,the maze which was destroyed in 1832 (except for the central basin) to make way for a new coach road.The first side avenue consists of a pergola of holmoaks with low stone seats at the sides; at the junction with the Viottolone are four marble statues by Giovanni Caccini: Prudence, Aesculapius,Autumn and Summer; the walk terminates on the right-hand side with the Fountain of Oceanus. The second branching alley ends at the city walls with a Bust of Jupiter (attributed to Giambologna), while the point where it crosses the Viottolone is marked by three Roman statues (the Senator, Bacchus and the Bald Philosopher) and one from the 18th century. Further down, the junction with the third side avenue has six statues:Aesculapius,Andromeda, a Nymph, Modesty and two groups with two peasant girls,known as the Gioco dello Scaccomazzone and the Gioco della Pentolaccia.At the end of the Viottolone the steep perspective ends at the elliptical Vasca dell’Isola,constructed by Parigi’s family in 1618.12-metre-high espaliers of ilex form the backdrop to numerous stone and marble statues with mythological, historical or popular themes,occupied almost entirely by a large basin connected to the ground by two walkways, entered through a wrought-iron gate. At the centre of the pool stands the Fountain of Oceanus, a copy of the original work by Giambologna. It consists of a statue of Neptune over statues representing the Nile, the Ganges and the Euphrates pouring their waters into the Ocean, a pool of Elba granite,the base of which is embellished by bas-reliefs. Emerging from the water of the island are the marble groups of Perseus on horseback and of Andromeda,whose ankles are chained to the rock.In line with the main avenue are the Fountain of the Harpies and the Fountain of the Putti. The Viottolone – after a division by a side avenue with four ancient statues of Serapis,Jupiter,a Male God and the Emperor Claudius – leads to the hemicyclical Prato delle Colonne,a lawn surrounded by a tall hedge with twelve niches containing large busts and with two red granite columns at the centre supporting marble vases. The Porta Romana gateway stands in an open space containing various stone groups.
The Fontana della Botticella near the iron gate is a fountain with a statue of a peasant pouring water from a small barrel,on a Roman sarcophagus base. On the path alongside the boundary wall towards Via Romana and leading back up to Palazzo Pitti is a series of statues running up to the Limonaia, a hothouse that is a remodelling of an earlier building erected in 1785 by Zanobi del Rosso. Near the large gateway on Via Romana is the Palazzina d’Annalena,a small neo-classical building by Cacialli. The Meridiana (or Sun-Dial) building next to Palazzo Pitti is a Neoclassical work by Gaspare Maria Paoletti (1778) and Pasquale Poccianti. The Prato della Meridiana in front of this building is a large,steeply-sloping lawn, from which smaller avenues dotted with statues lead off.
Palazzo Pitti, seen from Boboli gardens
The more famous Grotto del Buontalenti (recently under restoration), begun in 1557 and completed between 1583 and 1593 by Ammanati and Bernardo Buontalenti, is more complex, representing the world of ancient mythology and the forces of nature. In 1587 its façade was decorated by Giovanni del Tadda with rustic figures. Inside a series of stalactites and tufa sculptures represented the myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha and surrounding walls had frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti. In the third room there is a marble statue of Venus by Giambologna. Water drops and jets cool the air. Recently, under Dottore Giorgio Galleti, the gardens and grottoes have been under restoration, with hedges cut back to original heights and a programme of replanting, especially of the Isolotto with old rose species. In front of the Limonaia, where the Medici had their collections of rare citrus, beds edged with low box are planted with historic 16th-century flowers. High hedges and tunnels of holm oak, bay laurel, Phillyrea, Rhamnus, myrtle, and laurustinus define the pathways and provide dark shady walks.
Vasari Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano)
Dome of the Grotta del Buontalenti
in Boboli Gardens. On the left the door to Vasari Corridor
The Corridor was built in 1564 by Giorgio Vasari in only five months at the time of the wedding between Francesco I de' Medici and Giovanna of Austria; it served to link up the Pitti Palace, where the Grand Duke resided, with the Uffizi (or offices) where he worked.
It is a covered walk, almost a kilometre in length, an overhead passageway that starts out from the West Corridor of the Gallery, heads towards the Arno and then, raised up by huge arches, follows the river as far as the Ponte Vecchio, which it crosses by passing on top of the shops. The meat market on the bridge was at this time trasferred elsewhere, so as not to offend the Grand Duke's sensitive nose with unpleasant smells on his walk, and replaced (from 1593) with the goldsmiths who continue to work there today.
On the other side of the Arno, the corridor passes through the interior of the church of Santa Felicita, Down the tops of the houses and the gardens of the Guicciardini family until it finally reaches the Boboli gardens (one of the exits stands beside Buontalenti's Grotto) and the apartments in the Pitti Palace.
Vasari thus created a monumental urban footpath that took the absolute power of the ruler right into the historic heart of the city. In fact, a second corridor above Via della Ninna links the other side of the palace of the Uffizi with Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of Florentine government since the 13th century.
The Arno flood of 1966 also tested the bridge's resilience and swept parts of it away in its powerful current. The most affected sections were the overhanging shops belonging to the gold and silversmiths.
The West Corridor of the Gallery
At the southern end of the broad avenue, viale della limonaia, which leads one back to the Pitti Palace, is the Lemon House. Designed by Zanobi del Rosso, who is also responsible for the Kaffeehaus, it was erected in 1777-78 as part of Peter Leopold's renovations of the Garden. The building retains the colorful original rococó stucco which once characterized many Florentine structures. It was built where the Medici once kept a menagerie of rare animals. The Limonaia was intended to house rare and interesting citrus plants and today it still houses a collection started by the Medici. The Medici held citrus in high regard, for their reputed medicinal and therapeutic qualities as well as for their beauty and uniqueness of certain citrus plants.
The Knights garden which stands almost at the top of the Boboli gardens is well worth the long climb. Instead of a view over the city, this vantage point gives views of the Florentine hills. The contrast between the city on one side and the countryside on the other is quite marked and represents how much Florence was a self-contained unit within Tuscany. There is none of the sprawling on the outskirts of the city that we have become so inured to in the UK. The ramparts of the Knights garden were designed by Michelangelo in 1529 and completes the medieval feel.
The grottos are wonderful, mostly done in a roccoco style and based around characters from either the Bible or from Roman mythology. Three of them are worth the extra effort to see: the Adam and Eve grotto, the grotto with Bacchus and the tortoise and the Grotto Grande by Michelangelo Buontalenti.
The magnificent Giardino dei Semplici, the city's Botanical Garden. Founded in 1545 by Cosimo I de' Medici, the garden extends over more than two hectares of land, most of which covered by greenhouses. Today, the Botanical Garden continues to cultivate numerous varieties of officinal plants, the so-called semplici, after which the garden was named. At the center of the garden, a stone fountain with water-spitting putto takes pride of place amidst ponds home to an amazing collection of aquatic plants.
The Torrigiani Garden, not far from the Bobolino, is a private property open to the public. The garden was designed by Luigi Cambray-Digny and completed by Gaetano Baccani who, in the 19th century, added the neo-gothic tower which has become the garden's hallmark. On the summit of the tower there is a small observatory from where to admire the stars.
Parco delle Cascine Originally a wild rural area, now a park open to the public with dedicated areas for sporting activities. Duke Alexander purchased the land in the mid 16th century, creating a cattle farm and hunting estate later enlarged by Cosimo I de' Medici. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Cascine was transformed in public park: 160 hectares of park facing the right-hand bank of the river Arno. Until the 17th century the Cascine Park featured a great avenue of trees known as the Stradone dei Pini or Stradone del Re.
In the 19th century the Cascine Park was extensively redesigned, with large areas of park transformed into dedicated sports areas, including a running track.
In 2003 the park's restored Velodrome, named in honour of the legendary, Florence-born cyclist, Gino Bartali, was inaugurated.
Not far away from the Boboli Garden we find its smaller twin, the Bobolino, a public park structured like a hanging garden and characterised by grassy slopes, ponds and artificial caves. Less famous than its "big brother" (Boboli) Bobolino is the name under which some green spaces are called included in the first area from Porta Romana going up to the Piazzale Michelangelo. It is not exactly a garden, but you can find trees, flower beds and a large tub with jets. In spring and summer it becomes a destination for both people looking for a cool place to rest and for newlywed couples who want to enrich their photographic service including glimpses of unknown Florence.
The Giardino Bardini is an Italian Renaissance garden in Florence, Italy. Only opened recently to the public, it is relatively little-known.
Villa Bardini is close to the Boboli garden and can be visited on the same ticket.
The garden boasts many statues and panoramic views over the city. Wildlife in the garden includes rock pigeons, blackbirds and woodpigeons.
Access is gained via the Via de' Bardi, just over the road from the Museo Bardini in the Oltrarno district of the city, although the gardens exit onto the Costa di San Giorgio, onto which the Forte di Belevedere and the Giardino di Boboli connect in turn.
The fortress of Belvedere, located on the hill behind the garden of Boboli, is often referred to as «the most beautiful terrace on Florence». Art exhibitions and summer festivals are held here.
The Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence | Sculptures from the Boboli Gardens This online exhibition presents a first part of the photographic campaign, which focused on some of the most outstanding statues: those that, for conservational reasons, have had to be placed in a closed environment – in the so-called Stanzonaccio, a service building abutting onto the western wall of the Gardens, dating to the 17th century and used as a store since 2002 – and have in part been replaced by copies.
 The symbol of the devastating effects of the flood is the almost complete destruction of the huge Crucifix by Cimabue. The crucifix, painted in distemper on wood (around 1272) by one of the most significant painters of the 13th century, had lost the majority of its layer of paint. The first action taken was to move this work of art from the former Santa Croce refectory to the Limonaia,the Lemon Garden in the Giardino di Boboli. In 1976, the Crucifix underwent a major restoration, during which it was possible to conserve the remains of the layer of paint.
Transportation of the crucifix to the limonaia of the Giardino di Boboli (Photographer Bazzechi)
I Giardini di Boboliopening hours:
8.15 – 16.30 (November February)
8.15 – 17.30 (March)
8.15 – 18.30 (April, May, September and October)
8.15 – 17.30 (in the month of October when Daylight Saving Time ends)
8.15 – 19.30 (June August)
Entry is permitted up to an hour before closing time.
Closed on the 1st and the last Monday of each month, New Year's Day, May 1st and Christmas Day.
The Grotta Buontalenti is open for accompanied visits, depending on the opening hours of the Gardens:
11.00, 13.00, 15.00 all year round;
11.00, 13.00, 15.00, 16.00 from March to September;
11.00, 13.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00 from April to September.
Ticket valid also for the Museo degli Argenti, the Costume Gallery, the Porcelain museum and the Bardini Gardens.
The Pitti Palace (Palazzo Pitti)The Pitti Palace, which was formerly the residence of the grand-dukes of Tuscany and later of the King of Italy, now houses several important collections of paintings and sculpture, works of art, porcelain and a costume gallery, besides providing a magnificently decorated historical setting which extends to the Boboli Gardens, one of the earliest Italian gardens famous also for its fountains and grottoes.
It comprises the following galleries and museums: The Palatine Gallery, The Gallery of Modern Art, The Costume Gallery, The 'Museo degli Argenti' (The Medici Treasury), The Porcelain Museum and The Boboli Gardens.
When the rich Florentine merchant Luca Pitti died, the palace on the other side of the Arno was still unfinished. It was never proved that Brunelleschi was the author of this Palace. What is known for sure, though, is that the building was much smaller than the present one. At that time, Florence was governed by Pitti's implacable adversaries, the Medici, and destiny was to have it that the building end up in their hands when the rich wife of Cosimo 1 bought it with the park and square lying in front of it as the House's official home in 1550.
Palazzo Pitti, opening on to the Boboli gardens, was a more prestigious and appropriate alternative for the Medici than their residence in Palazzo Vecchio, still the symbol of Florence's Republican past. Cosimo and Eleonora decided to turn it into a princely palace and charged Bartolomeo Ammannati with completing and, above all, enlarging the building.
By doubling its internal volume depth and adding side wings, this bare 15th century building was transformed into the most monumental of the late Renaissance Florentine buildings. The Medici did not, in fact, move into it stably until many decades later and the Palace was used as a kind of representative hotel for ambassadors and kings besides being the place where they held the court's worldly events. Furthermore, to make the Palace easier to reach without having to mix with the crowds, Cosimo charged his architect and artistic consultant Giorgio Vasari with the building of a raised passageway connecting it to Palazzo Vecchio (the so-called Vasarian Corridor)
It only became the official Medici residence in 1589 with Ferdinando I and Cristina of Lorraine and over the centuries Pitti Palace housed another two dynasties: the Lorraine one and the Savoy one. Its growth and enlarging are due to the changed use for this building and represent the culture and taste of an ample period of time, from late Renaissance to our days. Its sumptuous decorations, extraordinary art collections continuously added to over the years, its art objects, fountains, rare plants in the Boboli Gardens have told the story of this spectacular building over the centuries.
A fundamental event in the palace history was the Leopold Hapsburg Lorraine decision to open the west wing, seat of the ancient Medici apartments, to the public where they organized the works of the different Medici collections (while the court carried on living in the east wing). The Palatine Gallery opened to the public in 1834. It is a curious fact that clothing propriety was a must if you wanted to enter the Gallery.
The Palatine Gallery, in its sumptuous furnishing environment, houses important Florentine and Venetian Renaissance paintings including the famous Madonna on the chair and The Veiled Lady by Raffaello, and several works by Tiziano. The 17th and 18th centuries are represented by some Caravaggio masterpieces and by one of the most important Italian foreign painting collections, including works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Murillo.
In 1919, when the Palace was still a Savoy Royal residence, in the rooms on the second floor they created the Modern Art gallery, as an ideal cultural continuation of past traditions. The Gallery hosts Italian art from the second half of the 19th century, mainly represented by Macchiaoli works, and from the start of the 20th century.
The Pitti Palace
The Palatine Gallery occupies the whole left wing of the first floor of the Pitti Palace, which was the residence of the Medici grand-dukes. In 1828, when Tuscany came under the rule of the Lorraine family, the most important paintings in the Palace, most of which had been collected by the Medici, were hung in the Gallery. It is an impressive collection comprising works by Raphael, Titian, Correggio, Rubens, Pietro da Cortona and other Italian and European masters of the Renaissance and
The paintings, which are sumptuously framed, cover the walls of the rooms in the style of traditional 17th-century picture galleries. The way they are hung and the rich plaster and fresco decoration of the suite of six rooms overlooking the piazza give the Gallery its particular fascination.
From the Palatine Gallery the visit continues through the Royal Apartments. They consist of fourteen magnificent rooms which were the home of the Medici and Lorraine grand-ducal families and, from 1865, of the king of Italy.
The 'Museo degli Argenti' (The Medici Treasury) is located in the Summer Apartments on the ground floor and on the mezzanine floor of the Pitti Palace.
The Granduke Ferdinando I made these rooms decorated in 1635, on the occasion of his wedding with Vittoria della Rovere.
The Museum houses the important Medici’s Treasure: the semi precious stone vases of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the cameos of Cosimo I, the rock crystal objects of Francesco I, the ambers of Maria Maddalena d’Austria, the wonderful ivory vases of Mattia de Medici and the famous jewels collection belonged to Anna Maria Luisa, the last member of the Medici Family.
The Museum is named after the silvers of the Salzburg Treasure, belonged to the Bishops of Salzburg and brought to Florence by Ferdinand III of Lorena in 1815. The Museum also houses an important collection of jewels made between the 17th and the 20th century by the most important Italian and European workshops.
An important new section devoted to the Contemporary Jewellery has recently been opened to testify the vitality of this historical Museum. A new setting houses the Japanese and Chinese Medici’s porcelain collection, started from the Medici Family in the 15th century: in the same room is now showed another important collection, given to the Museum by the Scalabrino Family, including Japanese and Chinese porcelains and some European maiolicas.
On the mezzanine floor of the museum it is possible to visit an extraordinary collection of miniature portraits, executed between the mid-sixteenth and the twentieth century, illustrating the principal schools of production: French, English, Italian, German, Austrian and American.
The Porcelain Museum houses the most beautiful porcelain of Europe, bought by Pietro Leopoldo and Ferdinand III: this collection was enriched by the arrival of other porcelain from the historical palaces of Parma, Piacenza and Sala Baganza which, from 1860, had been “sacked” to furnish the Royal Apartments of the Savoia Family in the Pitti
Palace in Florence.
The Museum is located in the 18th century building called the Palazzina del Cavaliere at the top of the
Boboli Gardens. In this pavilion of delights, the Accademici del Cimento gathered and Gian Gastone de Medici took French lessons. Rising behind the Pitti Palace are the beautiful Boboli Gardens. They were originally designed for the Medici and are one of the earliest examples of the Italian Garden which later inspired those of many European courts. The gardens
extend over a vast area forming an open-air museum with antique and Renaissance statues, grottoes and large fountains. Exploring its numerous and varied walks one is able to evoke the spirit of life at court and to enjoy the experience of a garden which continues to renew its natural cycle in keeping with the tradition of its past.
The fortress of Belvedere, located on the hill behind the garden of Boboli, is often referred to as «the most beautiful terrace on Florence». Art exhibitions and summer festivals are held here.
The sixth city walls, built in the 14th Century, included a bastion at the side of the Gate of San Giorgio: on this bastion was built between 1590 and 1595 a fortress dedicated to St. Mary, but better known as «Forte di Belvedere», due to the beautiful panoramic view of the city that can be enjoied from here.
In the intention of Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici, the fortress of Belvedere should serve two purposes: along with the fortress da Basso (located near today's train station), it was conceived as a defence against invading armies - but also as a powerful instrument to keep in check the city; furthermore, the fortress of Belvedere could offer a secure refuge for the Medici family in case of an internal uprising, due to its direct connection with the Gardens of Boboli and the Pitti palace.
The fortress was designed by Bernardo Buontalenti (although Giovanni de' Medici, the Duke's brother, was the official director of the construction) and is characterized by the polygonal plan and by the small villa in the middle.
Until 1951 the Fortress of Belvedere was a military facility; in that year the Italian Army donated it to the City of Florence. After a restoration, since 1955 the fortress is open to visitors and is regularly used for modern art exhibitions as well as for festivals and open air spectacles during the summer.
This fortress is a good example for Italian military architecture from the Renaissance: it contains elements with a pure military function (as the inclined bastions), but also its propagandistic role is clear. The fortress of Belvedere was conceived as a proof of the Medici's power, as is suggested by the villa built on top of the bastions: this small building is clearly visible from the city and its shape is unmistakable in the panorama of the hills on the southern side of Florence.
View from S. Miniato al Monte of the medieval and Renaissance fortifications that Michelangelo worked on for a year or two when the Florentine Republic was at war with the Medici supporters. Beyond, the terraces of the newly opened Bardini Gardens.
Podere Santa Pia, view from the garden
on the valley below
BBC | Italian Gardens Boboli Garden HD | Stephen D. Milton
Italian Gardens Boboli Garden HD | Stephen D. Milton
The Pitti Palace and the Medici family
Brunelleschi's construction, continued by his pupil, Luca Fancelli, after 1458 and then interrupted in 1472 by the death of Pitti and the collapse of the family's ambitions, was later altered and enlarged by Bartolomeo Ammannati (1558-70), who was called in by the Medicis to restructure the Palace. Ammannati redesigned the facade, replacing the lateral doorways with two "inginocchiate", or windows with outward curving bars (one of Michelangelo's inventions), created the great stairway that leads up to the first floor and added two rectangular wings onto the building in order to create a space for the new courtyard in the interior.
The three floors overlooking the courtyard, which can be said to be Ammannati's masterpiece, are divided up by the usual classic Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns but they are already typically Mannerist in style; the pilaster columns look almost like great knotted tree trunks and the fact that they are so close to the Boboli Gardens supports and accentuates this mixture of art and nature that was implied in the new school of thought and which was developing in a parallel way in the park itself.
The courtyard, closed off on the Boboli side by the Grotto of Moses and by the terrace above it with the Fountain of the Carciofo (Artichoke) (1641, Francesco Susini), was to play an important part in the festivities and cerimonies of the court, in particular for the wedding of Ferdinando I and Cristina of Lorraine (1589): complicated performances were staged here on this occasion, even a naval battle, which entailed flooding the entire area.
A lunette frescoed by Giusto Utens in 1599 shows us what the Pitti Palace looked like in that period and emphasizes how ambiguous the construction really was, a mixture that stood halfway between a city palace and a country residence.
The facade assumed its present aspect during the reign of Cosimo II (1590-1621) and Ferdinando II (1610-70) after further extensions were carried out by the architects Giulio Parigi (from 1620) and his son Alfonso (1640-50). The former increased the number of the windows overlooking the square from 7 to 13, while the latter lengthened the entire facade by adding another 10 windows (5 on each side), though on the two lower floors alone. As a result the palace frontage measured 205 metres in length by 36 in height.
In the meantime the Summer Apartments were created (on the ground floor to the left), frescoed by Giovanni da San Giovanni, Vannini, Furini and Cecco Bravo (1635-42); these can be seen when visiting the Silver Museum; the Monumental Apartments (on the first floor to the right) were also prepared, together with the Quarters of Pietro da Cortona (on the first floor to the left), named after the painter and author of its frescoes (1637 and 1641-47). These last rooms, and the ones next to them, known as the Quarters of Volterrano (who carried out the frescoes in the mid 17th century, for the most part since destroyed) also contain part of the Palatine Gallery. Gian Gastone's death, in 1737, and the arrival of the new Grand Dukes from the House of Hapsburg and Lorraine, was to determine the next stage in the construction of the building and the history of the Pitti Palace after the Medici.
The Pitti Palace after the Medici family
Following the various interventions that were carried out on the Pitti Palace during the reign of the Medici, the last important alterations to the building were to be made during the reign of the Lorraine family. They were carried out by architects Giuseppe Ruggeri, Gaspare Maria Paoletti and Pasquale Poccianti who, roughly between 1765 (date of the coronation of Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine) and 1820, completed the two lateral wings that curve around the square (called Rondòs) and the Palazzina of the Meridiana, in the palace grounds. The Rondò of Bacchus (on the left), previously used as a small theatre, takes its name from the side entrance into the Boboli Gardens, which in its turn is named after the statue of Bacchus (1560, Valerio Cioli) placed just past the gates, near the exit from the Vasari Corridor. The Rondò of the Coaches (on the right) contains restoration laboratories and the Coach Museum, unfortunately at present closed to the public.
The Palazzina of the Meridiana, at one time Umberto and Margherita of Savoy's favourite house (they transferred a great many neoclassical furnishings here from their palaces in Parma and Lucca), now contains the Costume Gallery and the Contini Bonacossi Collection.
Other more modest but noticeable alterations that were to effect the Pitti Palace in the 18th-19th centuries included the redecoration of some of the rooms in either neoclassical style or that of the Restoration. The White Room, once the ballroom, with stuccos by the Albertolli brothers (1776-80) and the Room of the Niches, once the dining room, redecorated in neoclassical style by Giuseppe Maria Terreni and Giuseppe Castagnoli at the end of the 18th century, are particularly interesting.
The Napoleonic period left its traces in the rooms prepared for Maria Luisa of Bourbon (the Round Chamber), Queen of Etruria between 1801 and 1803, and in the apartments designed in 1811-13 for the Emperor himself: the Napoleon Bathroom, the Vestibule and the Empress Maria Luisa's Bathroom, all designed by Giuseppe Cacialli (a pupil of Paoletti ) who, with the painter Pietro Benvenuti, was one of the most important exponents of Tuscan neoclassicism.
The post-Napoleonic Restoration (1815) and the return of Ferdinando III of Lorraine to the throne gave life to a new decorative programme in the apartments on the first floor, carried out by painters like Luigi Ademollo, Gaspare Martellini, Luigi Sabatelli, Pietro Benvenuti and Giuseppe Bezzuoli, one of the best of the early 19th century Tuscan artists.
Some of the last additions were carried out by Pasquale Poccianti: the staircase on the north side (to substitute Ammannati's "helicoidal" stairway), the so-called "Doric atrium" (1850) and the new furnishings in the apartments on the second floor (1825), previously occupied by the Library and by the rooms of younger sons of the Medici and Lorraine families. Since 1918 this wing of the palace has contained the Gallery of Modern Art, whose 30 rooms display about 2.000 works of art which are fundamental for studying the painting of the Macchiaoli or Tuscan Impressionists, who were to anticipate French Impressionism. Poccianti's alterations were completed by the architect Luigi Del Moro in 1896.
Villa Medicea La Petraia In the first half of XVIth century, the Medici became the owners of this mansion, which then was characterized by a typical medieval design. Following a project by Buontalenti, a good number of modifications were effected, until the works were completed, by the end of the XVIth century. The structure has a square base, it is two stories high and it has maintained the ancient tower.
The entrance is immersed in a wide surrounding garden. These gardens, on three levels, mirror the typical XVIth century layout, although a few modifications were included during the XIXth century From the Italian garden you climb up to the middle fishpond, and then you reach the suspended level of the Figurine, so called because of the fountain depicting Florence’s Venus.
The entrance portal is located on the southern edge, and the symbol of the Medici-Lorena hangs over it. From the hallway you can reach the central court, decorated with frescoes by Daddi and by Volterrano.
The glass coverings in the courtyard, turned into a ballroom, and the Imperial style furnishings in the halls were ordered by Vittorio Emanuele II di Savoia. Among the major elements of interest we will remember the collection of social games (Hall of games) and the small study, hosting a bronze statue by Giambologna.
Once the crowning of the fountain on the Level of the Figurine, the statue depicts Florence’s Venus drying her hair from the waters of Arno and Mugnone. The English park on the hill behind the mansion is also worthy of a visit.
Villa Medicea della Petraia, Castello, Via della Petraia 40, Firenze | (055 452691)
Giardino dei Semplici
The Orto Botanico di Firenze (2.3 hectares), also known as the Giardino dei Semplici, the "Garden of simples", is a botanical garden maintained by the University of Florence. The Botanical Gardens of Florence is one of the oldest Botanical Gardens in the world, together with Padua and Pisa.
The garden was established on December 1, 1545, by Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and is Europe's third oldest, behind the Orto Botanico di Pisa and the Orto Botanico di Padova. It was first laid out by landscape gardener Niccolò Pericoli to a botanical system and plantings chosen by Luca Ghini, and rose to prominence under Cosimo III, with Pier Antonio Micheli as its director. As was typical of early European botanical gardens, its prime interest was in medicinal plants. However, as in 1753 the Società Botanica was formed, the garden's focus turned to "experimental agriculture" and its layout was revised accordingly. The garden grounds opened to the public in the mid-19th century, at about the same time that its glass houses (1694 m²) were constructed.
Giardino della Gherardesca
The villa was built between 1472 and 1480 for Bartolommeo Scala. It was a 'casini of delights' with a garden, a nursery and a a grove designed drawn to catch small birds (a ragnaia). The present garden was made in the eighteenth century. It has paths, shrubs, trees, an Ionic temple and a tepidarium. The garden was then used for botanical collections, including azaleas.
Villa La Pietra is one of the grandest and most famous of all the villas of Florence. Preceded by a magnificent long cypress avenue and surrounded by an extensive estate with olive groves and fruit trees, it also boasts one of the loveliest gardens in Italy. Florence has been known for centuries for its villas on the low hills which surround the city. These were the country retreats of rulers and poets in the Renaissance, among them the Medici family and Humanist scholars. The villas are all beautifully sited in the countryside against the gentle contour of the low hills, and their green gardens extend into the carefully preserved landscape. At the beginning of the last century a number of distinguished Americans purchased villas in the environs when they decided to take up residence in Florence. These included Bernard Berenson at Villa I Tatti (and he bequeathed the property to Harvard) and Charles Augustus Strong at Villa Le Balze (now owned by Georgetown University), both just across the hills from the Actons' Villa La Pietra.
The site of a renaissance garden (1462) which disappeared and was replaced by an Italian Arts and Crafts garden designed by Henri Duchene for the English historian Arthur Acton. The garden is now owned by New York University. It has a theatrical character with box hedges, statuary, cypress trees.
In 1885 John Temple Leader purchased the medieval Vincigliata Castle near Fiesole, and spent twelve years redesigning it in accordance with the "Gothic revival" style popular at the time. However, a number of original crests can still be seen in the courtyard, and a fine fresco cycle dating back to the 14th century also survived the renovation work.
The 19th-century scheme was not limited to the restoration of the building but also included its surroundings: the slopes of the hill were planted with trees and dense undergrowth suited to the rocky terrain. Cypress trees were also introduced here and there, in amongst the pines and holm-oaks, creating an unusual mix of conifers and deciduous trees. Leader was assisted in his landscaping scheme by the architect Giuseppe Fancelli and hydraulics expert Alessandro Papini.
In the second half of the 19th century, Temple Leader purchased the ancient "Cava delle Colonne", a quarry whose name is a reference to the fact that the stone used to make the columns of the Princes' Chapel in the church of San Lorenzo came from here. This natural basin, which was transformed into a lake-like pool using water from the Mensola river, is the most conspicuous feature of the large romantic park.
On one side of this lake the shoreline takes the form of craggy rocks that create beautiful caves, on the other an embankment was built. The waters are overhung by the surrounding greenery and the surface is adorned with aquatic plants such as water lilies, iris, papyrus and rushes. All the buildings in the park were constructed before 1883, with the exception of the Gothic-style tower (1885-1886), the visual focal point of this charmingly atmospheric bathing area.
The tower, topped by a protruding walkway with Guelph-style crenellations, is very similar to the one on the castle's watch tower. The ladies' changing cabin, a Swiss chalet-style pile construction built over the water, is the only feature that has been lost. The so-called Maria Luisa Bridge connects the two sides of the river, beyond which stands the Kaffeehause with an elegant loggia.
This building was originally used as a storeroom for equipment used in the nearby quarries. The garden surrounding the waters of the Laghetto delle Colonne, is criss-crossed by tortuous paths that wind their way through the dense vegetation encountering on their way various typical romantic garden features: ornamental bridges, walls, statues of mythological monsters and a nymphaeum-grotto. The time when Queen Victoria came to the villa in 1893 as a guest of Temple Leader is recalled in a stone tablet.
Villa Medici at Fiesole, near Florence, is one of the oldest Renaissance residences with a garden and is also one of the best preserved, but at the same time one of the least well known. While most of the villas dating back to the same period, such as Cafaggiolo and Trebbio, stand at the centre of agricultural concerns, Villa Medici had no connections at all with farming life.
The villa was built during the mid 15th century when Cosimo de' Medici the Elder employed Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to design it for his second son, Giovanni. Intended to be a setting for intellectual life rather than a working Villa, Villa Medici was constructed to be a demonstration of aesthetic and ideological values. It owes its fame to Lorenzo il Magnifico who inherited the property in 1469 following the untimely death of his uncle. The new master of the house turned the residence into a gathering place for artists, philosophers and men of letters such as Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and Angelo Ambrogini, known as Poliziano. The quadrangular building is a typical 15 C edifice, with square pietra serena windows and broad loggias looking out over the surroundings.
The villa remained the property of the Medici until 1671.
The geographical position of the villa on gently sloping land suggested the layout of the garden on three terraces. The first of these, at the end of an avenue lined with cypress trees that runs underneath a holm-oak wood, has large rectangular lawns with potted lemon trees. The villa's piano nobile looks out onto this part of the garden. The second terrace is overlooked by the rear of the building and is reached by an indoor staircase. This, the least heavily altered part of the garden, has flower beds lined with box hedges with a large fountain in the centre, and is laid out in the shade of large magnolia trees. The third terrace, created between 1911 and 1923 by Cecil Pinsent and Geoffrey Scott  is aligned longitudinally with the first, but is 11-12 m lower down. It is laid out in the Italian style, with a fine pergola positioned mid-way between the two levels. Lady Sybil's daughter and heiress, Iris Origo, later employed Cecil Pinsent for the development of the garden at La Foce, her property in the Crete Senesi near Montepulciano.
The Medici Villa at Careggi once belonged to the Medici dynasty and served as a meeting place for highly prestigious intellectuals. The villa was purchased by the Medici in 1417 and restructured by the year 1459. In the fifteenth century, the Villa di Careggi was considered their favorite residence; it became headquarters of the Platonic Academy and a place where experts in literature, philosophy and art came to gather. During the following century, Cosimo I had the villa decorated by artists like Pontormo and Bronzino. Unfortunately, these works were subsequently lost. Other decorations were commissioned in the XVII century by Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici. After changing hands several times over the course of the centuries, the villa became property of the Careggi Hospital in 1936.
This fifteenth century residence, where Lorenzo the Magnificent died, was built on a plan by the architect Michelozzo. Today, it is the headquarters of Careggi Hospital’s administrative offices. Nonetheless, it continues to be an architectural monument that is open to visitors. Guests to the museum can take advantage of a free brochure containing historical references about the villa in both English and Italian. The villa is still primarily characterized by its original architectural lines. Visitors are sure to appreciate its seventeenth century decorations and its monumental atmosphere, furnished with frescoes and fine furnishings.
The gardens and estate of La Foce constitute one of the most important and best kept early twentieth-century gardens in Italy. Amid 3,500 acres of farmland in the countryside near Pienza, with sweeping views of the Tuscan landscape, La Foce was the childhood dream garden of the late writer Marchesa Iris Origo. Passionate about the order and symmetry of Florentine gardens, Origo and her husband, Antonio, purchased the dilapidated villa in 1924, soliciting the help of English architect and family friend Cecil Pinsent to reawaken the natural magic of the property. Pinsent designed the structure of simple, elegant, box-edged beds and green enclosures that give shape to the Origos' shrubs, perennials, and vines, and created a garden of soaring cypress walks, native cyclamen, lawns, and wildflower meadows. It is, by all accounts, a remarkable achievement.
Situated in the Val d'Orcia, a wide valley in southeastern Tuscany that seems to exist on a larger, wilder scale than the rest of the Tuscan landscape, it is run by Benedetta and Donata Origo, and is open to the public one day a week.
Villa Poggio Torselli, near San Casciano Val di Pesa, is one of the largest and most elegant residences in the area of the San Casciano Hills, near Florence. Known in the past as the “queen of all villas”, it appeared on record as early as 1427 bearing the name of “Poggio Torselli”.
It was the property of some of the most remarkable patrician families in Tuscany: Macchiavelli, Corsini, Strozzi, Antonori, Capponi and Orlandini, who owned the villa until 1722. The "Season s' Garden", created in the 18th century offers the most astonishing image of its rebirth in April, with the scented blossom of the splendid bulbous plants: narcissus, tulips, hyacinths and many others spring plants such as, in particular, the firittilaria also known as "imperial crown" because of the orange tuft of bell-shaped, pendolous flowers surmounting the bottom of the stem that, thanks to its charme deserved one of the most clamorous nobilty's title of Villa Poggio Torselli.
But, not less perfumed and gorgeous is the exotic summer of the garden, crowned by plants of dahlia, sage, multicolour clematis and Indian giant ibiscus. And, in every season, the entire garden is surrounded by the golden crown of 120 secular lemon trees.
Gardens in Tuscany | The Villa Poggio Torselli
The Villa di Catignano was built at the end of XVII° century by the ancestor of the currents proprietors, Quinto Settano, pseudonym of Monsignor Lodovico Sergardi, a writer and a lover of the arts. The small borough already existed in 1500 with the name of "Clatinianum" as a property of Sergardi family. Nowadays the Villa, overlooking a beautiful italian garden, decorated with statues representing the four season, and the medievaltowers of Siena in the distance, welcomes guests who appreciate historical sites and suggestive atmospheres.
Villa I Tatti
Villa I Tatti in Settignano was home to Bernard Berenson, the Lithuanian Jew who became America's most illustrious critic and connoisseur of Renaissance art. For 50 years it was a mecca for intellectuals and collectionists from the world over. Today the art collection and library serve as a research facility for Harvard University.
In 1900, Bernhard Berenson bought a villa in the Tuscan hills of Settignano, outside Florence. Villa I Tatti subsequently would be forever associated with Berenson. The gardens of the Villa I Tatti were created by the English landscape architect Cecil pinsent and Geoffrey Scott.
The newly married art historians Bernard and Mary Berenson made their home at the Villa I Tatti near Florence in 1900. In the following years Mary, supervised the rebuilding of the villa and the creation of its elegant gardens. The Berensons pursued their work at I Tatti over a period of nearly six decades, and here they entertained a remarkable circle of friends :art historians ( Kenneth Clark, John Walker, John Pope-Hennessy), writers (Edith Wharton, Alberto Moravia), political thinkers (Walter Lippman, Gaetano Salvermini), musicians (Yehudi Menuhin) and countless other visitors from every part of the world. At I Tatti Bernard Berenson assmbled a choice collection of Renaissance art, including works by Giotto, Sassetta, Domenico Veneziano, and Lorenzo Lotto. He also formed a prodigious art historical research library and photograph collection. When he died in 1959, he bequeathed the house, its contents, and the gardens to Harvard University as a Center for Renaissance Studies.
San Quirico d'Orcia
The Giardini di Boboli (Boboli's Gardens) is a member of the Grandi Giardini Italiani, an association of major gardens in Italy. Its members include some of the most important gardens in Italy. List of member gardens | Fondazione Pompeo Mariani (Imperia), Giardini Botanici di Stigliano (Roma), Giardini Botanici di Villa Taranto (Verbania), Giardini Botanici Hanbury (Ventimiglia), Giardini della Landriana (Roma), Giardini La Mortella (Napoli), Giardino Barbarigo Pizzoni Ardemani (Padova), Giardino Bardini (Firenze), Giardino dell'Hotel Cipriani (Venezia), Giardino di Boboli (Firenze), Giardino di Ninfa (Latina), Giardino di Palazzo del Principe, Giardino di Villa Gamberaia (Firenze), Giardino Ducale di Parma, Giardino Esotico Pallanca (Imperia), Giardino Giusti (Verona), Giardino Storico Garzoni (Pistoia), Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle (Merano), Giardino del Biviere (Siracusa), Serraglio di Villa Fracazan Piovene (Vicenza), Vittoriale degli Italiani (Brescia), Cervara, Abbazia di San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino (Genova), Venaria Reale, Museo Giardino della Rosa Antica (Modena), Museo Nazionale di Villa Nazionale Pisani (Venezia), Oasi di Porto (Roma), Orto Botanico dell'Università di Catania, Palazzo Fantini (Forlì), Palazzo Parisio (Malta), Palazzo Patrizi (Roma), Parco Botanico di San Liberato (Roma), Parco del Castello di Miramare (Trieste), Parco della Villa Pallavicino (Verbania), Parco della Villa Reale di Marlia (Lucca), Parco di Palazzo Coronini Cronberg (Gorizia), Parco di Palazzo Malingri di Bagnolo (Cuneo), Parco di Pinocchio (Pistoia), Parco Giardino Sigurtà (Verona), Parco Idrotermale del Negombo (Napoli), Parco Paternò del Toscano (Catania), Parco Storico Seghetti Panichi (Ascoli Piceno), Varramista Gardens (Pisa), Villa Arvedi (Verona), Villa Borromeo Visconti Litta (Milano), Villa Carlotta (Como), Villa del Balbianello (Como), Villa della Porta Bozzolo (Varese), Villa d'Este (Como), Villa d'Este (Tivoli), Villa di Geggiano (Siena), Villa Durazzo (S. Margherita Ligure, GE), Villa Farnese di Caprarola (Viterbo), Villa Grabau (Lucca), Villa La Babina (Imola), Villa La Pescigola (Massa), Villa Lante (Viterbo), Villa Melzi d'Eril (Como), Villa Montericco Pasolini (Imola), Villa Novare Bertani (Verona), Villa Oliva-Buonvisi (Lucca), Villa Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente (Firenze), Villa Pisani Bolognesi Scalabrin (Padova), Villa Poggio Torselli (Firenze), Villa San Michele (Napoli), Villa Serra (Genova), Villa Trento Da Schio (Vicenza), Villa Trissino Marzotto (Vicenza), Villa Vignamaggio (Firenze). Grandi Giardini Italiani (Italian) | www.grandigiardini.it