The Boboli Gardens of Florence

The Boboli Gardens of FlorenceLocated in one of the most fascinating places in the world and taking up an area of 45 square metres, the Boboli Gardens, in Florence, can only be described as a wonderland filled with amazing fountains, statues, Egyptian style stone pillars, bath-tubs originally from thermal spas of ancient Rome, columns, mazes, elaborately decorated caves, amphitheatres, palaces and every possible marble, terracotta or granite object that you could think of.

Upon entering the gardens, you will soon find yourself lost within a maze of pathways lined with endless rows of old cypresses, grassy lawns and hedges which open out to reveal boulevards bordered by climbing plants or cascades of plane-trees, live oaks or flower-beds. The gardens are also home to numerous botanical gardens, rose gardens and greenhouses boasting oranges, lemons and other exotic fruits. Typically Italian, the gardens are styled in a very classic and neat manner which is a striking contrast to many areas of the city where bushes grow uncontrollably.

As if that wasn’t enough, the magnificent gardens also boast a number of museums including a porcelain museum and various others within Pitti Palace, all of which feature collections of paintings, silver and elaborately decorated, monumental appartments. So, as you can see, it is with good reason that the Boboli Gardens have been recognised as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world; as well as being one of the finest examples of Italian gardening and Renaissance art

These impressive royal gardens take up a immense space which stretches from the remarkable Pitti palace, right up to the prominent walls of Forte Belvedere, which were put in place during the 14th century to defend the city. However, this being said, the gardens actually belong to the great Pitti Palace, and there has always been a strong link between the two.

Despite its name, Pitti Palace was not actually occupied by the powerful Pitti Family for any significant length of time, the result of the family’s long-standing feud with the even more powerful Medici Family. The feud dates all the way back the 15th century, when Florence’s two most important and powerful families became involved in a bitter fight over the control of the city, as the city grew in power and thus fueling the already fierce rivalry between the families further. Such fierce rivalry and strong feelings of hatred between the two families inevitably resulted in a bitter war which shook the lives of all those living within Tuscany at this time. A war during which Luca Pitti, head of the Pitti Famly, certainly did not hold back in showing his animosity towards his main rival Cosimo il Vecchio de’ Medici, head of the Medici Family.

Cosimo already had a striking palace located right by Michelozzo, just a few feet away from San Lorenzo. Yet, he authorized the contruction of another palace, one which was to be so big that the windows would be as big as the doors of the original Medici Palace. He assigned the most famous architect of that time, Filippo Brunelleschi, who was, in fact, at this time, already involved in the construction of the magnificent Cupola of Florence’s world famous Duomo. However, not one to be outdone, Luca Pitti entrusted the realization of an equally elaborate palace to another reknowned architect, Luca Francelli, who started the work in 1457.

However, the Pitti Family fell into trouble financially and consequently experienced numerous difficulties with the financial contracting of the construction of such an impressive palace. Unfortunately their bad luck persisted and, as they remained unable to fund the project, they were forced to interrupt construction in 1470. Ironically, Luca’s heirs thought nothing of abandoning the troublesome palace and they surrendered the unfinished palace over to their arch enemies, the Medici Family, through Eleonora Alvarez of Toledo, the wife of Cosimo 1, grand duke of Tuscany. The construction of the palace was soon resumed by Bartolomeo Ammanati who also created the sumptuous courtyard, soon to become the Boboli Gardens. It was at this point that the idea of creating a huge garden came about, one that would occupy the space behind the palace right up to the Roman door.

From the onset, Cosimo had a well-known named gardener Tribolo in mind for the job, as he had already completed work on numerous other medieval gardens, and, to Cosimo’s delight, he took the job imediately. Unfortunately, shortly after having set up the project, he died suddenly the following year, at just 50 years old. Consequently, this grand-scale project was not quite as straight forward and brief as Cosimo had originally hoped.

Nevertheless, it must have been completed by 1608, as the amphitheatre, located to one side of Pitti palace (which is also still undergoing construction) was the venue of the lavish wedding of Cosimo II and Maria Maddalena of Austria during this year. Following this significant event, the flower beds of Boboli beared witness to a very important period of Italian history, particularly between 1865 to 1871 when Florence became the capital of Italy. Consequently, Pitti Palace became the residence of the great King Vittorio Emanuele II, who later donated the palace and its beautiful gardens to the state and the Italian population.

Although it hit many problems throughout its development, the creation of the park was never permanently interrupted. In 1612, the neverending rows of cypresses were planted and the big amphitheatre was transformed into a the great stone structure we see today. In the 18th century, the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo planted the many lemon trees and constructed both the Meridiana Palace and the elegant Kaffeehaus building. Finally, in the nineteenth century, an avenue was put in through the gardens, although at the unfortunate cost of the mazes, to grant access to the gardens by carriage.

Today, the gardens consist of two main sections. The first, which was created during the 16th century, ascending to top of the gardens, past the ampitheatre, right to the Vasca del Forcone until you reach the colossal statue of the Abbondanza, created by Giambologna. Also, immediately after, this section continues for a little while, right up the small Cavaliere garden. The other section, characterised by its endless rows of cypresses stretchimg along this large 17th century style area of the Boboli Gardens, reaching the magnificent bathtub of the Island, inside which there is a small garden of lemons and roses and the Fountain of the Ocean. So with two such vast areas to explore, it is easy to get lost amongst the many pathways and hidden treasures of the park.

There is truly no end to the surprises to be found within these splendid gardens. To discover these wonders, you only have to walk along the huge avenue which runs alongside Pitti Palace towards the side exit leading out to the neighbouring spacious piazza, from which you can see the unmistakable outline of Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, and the Badia in the distance. From here, you will also see before you the endless red rooftops of Florence, amongst which there stands a solitary and bizarre statue of a dwarf riding a turtle. The marble statue is, in fact, called “Bacchino” and is actually a representation of Pietro or Dino Barbino, Cosimo I de’ Medici’s court jester. The statue was commissioned by the lady of the house who, being sincerely saddened by his death, wanted something to remember the jester by.

Just a little further behind this statue, hidden behind the trees, is the star attraction of the Boboli Gardens. Considered to be one of the most fascinating places in all of Florence, there is a huge cave which never ceases to amaze the many visitors of the Medici house. Constructed in the 16th century by Vasari and Buontalenti, it consists of a combination of three smaller caves the walls of which are covered with white plaster, shells, mosaics and mythological statues (which are the work of Michelangelo).

After experiencing the many treasures that these spectacular gardens have to offer, it is truly difficult to tear yourself away, with its alluring the marble that shines in the sun and the infinite plants that fill the air with their sweet aroma, only to find yourself back on the bustling, overcrowded streets of Florence. However, even more difficult, impossible even, is to erase the memory of this wonderous place and the inevitable desire to return.

Commenti (1) | March 15, 2010

One Response to “The Boboli Gardens of Florence”

  1. Cesar Says:
    July 2nd, 2012 at 01:23

    , You won’t want to go back that exact thought had just run gutrohh my mind. That is SO beautiful, all the senses immediately go on ALERT. And to think of combining the dining, beauty, business experience and is no doubt a winning combination.I’m not sure this will be the year for me to attend, but this experience is going on MY LIST for sure.Great great idea, great job!Anita

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