Boboli Gardens Travel Guide
The Boboli Gardens is one of the first and formally recognized 16th century gardens in Italy. It is located on the Palazzo Pitti grounds and features an open-air style of architecture that was quite unique for its time. It features the use of long axial developments, wide gravel avenues and its lavish use of stone, statuary and fountains. It also lacks a natural source of water, so water from the Arno River had to be channeled into it via an elaborate irrigation system. It served as an inspiration to many other European royal gardens such as the Versailles.
Its construction has a long and drawn out history, starting in the 15th century when the fields and the area behind Santa Felicita in the Oltrarno Quarter were laid out by the Borgolo family. It was subsequently bought by Lucca Pitti in 1418 and expanded throughout this time. In 1549, it was purchased by Eleonora di Toledo, Cosimo I’s wife, and became the new seat of the Medici family.
It has experienced several reconstructions throughout the years until it was expanded to its current size of 45,000 square meters in the 17th century. The Medici and Lorraine families continued to enlarge and enrich the garden all the way to the 19th century to include an outdoor museum along with various Roman and Renaissance statues.
What to See
Grotta del Buontalenti
Also known as the Grotta Grande or the Large Grotto, it showcases amazing examples of Mannerist sculptures and architecture. It is divided into three sections that is decorated with stalactites and originally had waterworks installed into it. The first section contains frescos to give it the look of a natural grotto, depicting a refuge for shepherds to shelter themselves against wild animals. It was also where Michelangelo’s The Prisoners was originally housed. Other notable works of art include Giambologna’s Bathing Venus and Vincenzo de’ Rossi’s Paris and Helen.
The amphitheatre area adjoins the hill behind the Pitti Palace and is considered the primary axis of Gardens. The stone located here was used on the palace itself, and the shape of the excavated area made it perfect for an actual amphitheater. This shape also resembles one half of a classical hippodrome or racecourse. The area was subsequently decorated with different statues of Roman myth, with an Egyptian Obelisk brought directly from Luxor that is placed in the center of the amphitheatre.
Added by the Lorraine family in the 18th century, both the green Kaffehaus and the Lemon House were designed by Zanobi del Rosso. It features the Prato della Meridiana, which is an expansive and steep lawn that has several smaller avenues dotted with statues that branch off from here. Also located here is the Palazzina della Meridiana (or Sun-Dial) which hosts the Costume Gallery within the Pitti Palace.
Giardino del Cavaliere
The Giardino del Cavaliere is located on the ramparts of the walls built by Michelangelo in 1529. This garden has a great view of the Torre al Gallo and the many Florentine manors across the hills. The best time to visit would perhaps be in May, when the garden is blooming with roses. The Porcelain Museum can also be found next to it, as well as the large water storage area beneath known as the “trout reservoir”.
Those who enjoy long walks will appreciate the Viottolone, with its steep sloping avenue heading back towards Porta Romana and its series of terraces and tunnels formed by the many trees around the area. It is lined by numerous cypress trees and statuettes that lead all the way down to the Isolotto, a large pond with a fountain called the Ocean. The fountain was created by Giambologna and features three sculptures that represent the three Great rivers of the Nile, Gange and the Euphretes.
Tips and Advice
- The very nature of the Boboli Gardens requires it to undergo constant maintenance and restoration. A schedule has been made to provide periodic upkeep to this part of the Palazzo Pitti. It’s best to inquire beforehand to know if certain parts of the garden is being worked on, so that you can avoid missing out on any of the exhibits that you planned to visit.
- Take note that it is prohibited to bring unauthorized bicycles, skates, skateboards and motorized vehicles into the Gardens, as well as dogs of any kind.
- For safety purposes, they have strict fire safety rules in places such as prohibiting the lighting of fires and the throwing of lit cigarettes on the Garden grounds.
- They also have assigned paths for tourists to walk on. It is best to stick to these paths to avoid any unexpected accidents.
- Wet or damp weather can make some of the steps in the area quite slippery, so caution is advised when visiting the Gardens during these times.
- The Gardens open at 8:15 am daily and close at different hours, depending on the time of the year. From November to February, it closes at 4:30 pm; in March, it closes at 5:30 pm; from April to May and September to October, it closes 6:30 pm; and from June to August it closes at 7:30pm. In addition it is also closed during the first and last Monday of each month, as well as on January 1st, May 1st and the 25th of December.