Boboli Gardens – a beautiful corner of Florence
Florence is an amazingly beautiful city. Palaces, cathedrals, galleries, museums attract many tourists with their unique architecture, a huge number of masterpieces of painting and sculpture. One of the most visited attractions in Florence can safely call the Boboli Gardens (Giardino di Boboli).
This park complex, created in the XVI century , attracts visitors with its perfect landscape design, sculptures, interesting architectural structures. A brief description of the gardens is present in all Florence brochures. Photos of the gardens cannot fully convey the elegance and grace of this place, its energy. In 2013, the park complex was included in the UNESCO list .
Where are the Boboli Gardens
Address : Piazza Pitti, Firenze, Italy
The park is located just behind Pitti Palace.
Getting there: by bus, line 11, 36, stop San Felice.
History of the Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are first mentioned in 16th century documents when Cosimo I, ruler of Florence, bought the Pitti Palace. When the duke’s wife was viewing the palace, her attention was drawn to the large hill behind the palace, from whose summit the city was literally on view. Eleanor of Toledo decided that this place was ideal for a luxurious park, which would be a symbol of the power and wealth of the Medici family .
This is interesting. The Pitti Palace was originally built for the merchant Luca Pitti, who was an opponent of the Medici family and built the structure with scope precisely to outshine the dukes’ possessions with luxury. Ironically, a few decades later the palace becomes the property of the Medici and a symbol of their power.
Several of Florence’s best architects and gardeners worked on the creation of the park. The results of their work can be judged by the fact that for a long time Boboli Gardens were the model by which royal parks were created in European countries. For example, the park area of Versailles.
Each generation of the Medici family made changes, additions and expansions to the gardens. Decorative structures, sculptures, and fountains appeared in the park.
As long as the Medici were the rulers of Florence, the Boboli Gardens were used for receptions, ceremonies, and other events. It was here that opera singing was first heard. Subsequently, all the Tuscan nobility sought to get to the receptions of the Medici to enjoy the art of opera. By the way, you can still listen to the opera in the gardens.
The park complex nowadays
Today the Boboli Gardens are a museum of garden art. Wikipedia reports that the area of the park is 4.5 hectares . The gardens were open to all in the 18th century. For several centuries, it has been a favorite resting place for both residents of Florence and visitors to the city. The feedback from tourists who have been in the gardens is unequivocal – a trip to Florence should definitely include a visit to the Boboli Gardens.
The area of the park
The gardens are divided into several sections, with axial gravel paths and alleys. There are two main perpendicular paths in the park and they intersect near the Neptune Fountain. You can stroll along numerous secondary paths decorated with statues and fountains. You can see terraces and glades, ancient structures and grottoes.
The main trail starts from the amphitheater and leads to the back of the Pitti Palace. The trail is very picturesque, with oaks and cypresses growing along it.
It’s interesting. During his stay in Florence, Fyodor Dostoyevsky often walked the alleys of the park with his wife. It was one of the writer’s favorite places.
The Amphitheatre opened in 1551, it was one of the earliest structures of the park and was used for theatrical performances. About 45 years after the opening, the stairs were completed, and the statues of marble became a decoration of the XVII century. In the central part of the amphitheater is an obelisk, brought to Florence from Egypt.
This is interesting. It was in the Boboli Gardens that opera was first heard, and performances of opera singers are still held here today.
The trail passes by the Neptune Fountain, which was created in the 18th century . The pond in which the fountain is located is artificial. Water from the pond is used to water the plants in the park. The fountain is a sculptural composition consisting of a base and a figure of the god of the sea with a trident. The fountain is also decorated with statues of newts and naiads.
Not far from the fountain are Roman sculptures . After walking a little ahead and climbing the stairs, visitors will find a hall with sculptures of muses.
A little further is a sculpture – a dwarf on a turtle. Usually sculptors depict perfect human bodies, the statue of a dwarf against this background looks unusual. Maybe that’s why the figure of a naked fat man who sits on a turtle is a success with tourists, rarely anyone is not photographed against this strange statue.
Did you know? Almost all of the sculptures in the park are exact copies, the originals are preserved in the vaults.
The knight’s garden is a section of the park on the hill, it is from here you can enjoy a beautiful panorama of Florence . This area is planted with many flowers, mainly dahlias and roses. Here is the “Fountain of Monkeys”. The main architectural structure is the Casino del Cavaliere . Here the princes of Tuscany entertained themselves with gambling. Today the building houses a museum of porcelain tableware.
Artificial caves are of great interest to tourists .
- The Grotto di Madama was built in the 16th century by David Fortini. The façade is made in the form of a rock surface, framed by cornices of stone. Inside the room is decorated with artificial stalactites and animal statues.
- The Grotto of Adam and Eve was built in the 19th century. Inside is a sculptural composition depicting the first man and woman. The grotto is decorated with a mosaic of pebbles.
- Buontalenti’s grotto was made at the end of the 16th century. Two sculptors Giorgio Vasari and Buontalenti worked on the grotto. The man-made cave is considered an architectural masterpiece that harmoniously combines the skills of architects, painters and sculptors. The façade of the grotto is decorated with stucco, mosaics and statues. Inside, there are frescoes and some unique sculptures.
Opening hours depend on the season:
- November – February from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m;
- March, October from 08.15 to 17.30;
- April, May, September from 08.15 to 18.30;
- June-August from 08.15 to 19.30.
Every month, on the first and last Monday, the gardens are closed for technical work.
Tickets can be ordered online and purchased at the box office.
On the website, the entrance ticket costs $22 for an adult and $6 for children 6 to 17 years old. The ticket includes a visit to the Boboli Gardens and some of the exhibitions at the Pitti Palace (Porcelain Museum, Museum of Historical Costume and Silver Museum).
The ticket price at the ticket office is 10 euros.
For children under 6 years old admission is free.
What to see nearby
The Borromeo Palace was the residence of the Medici family, the Dukes of Lorraine, King of Italy. Today, the palace is a museum complex with a very interesting exposition. The walls of the palace are decorated with paintings by Raphael, Lippi, Borticelli, Perugino, Titian, Rubens and other talented painters. Interestingly, all the paintings are still located in the places where they were once placed by the masters of the palace. There are several museums in the building: porcelain, silver, historical costume.
In the Boboli Gardens, visitors can enjoy the clean air, birdsong, old trees and beautiful flowers. The panorama of Florence that opens from the hill leaves no one indifferent. In this beautiful place, it is easy to forget about time and worries, you want to wander through the alleys among the old oaks and admire the magical landscapes.
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A full ticket at 6 euros, a discount ticket (for EU citizens aged from 18 to 26 years) at 2 euros, children under 18 years old are free of charge on presentation of documents. You can buy a general ticket for 5 days (Palatine Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Costume Museum, Museum of Silver and the Boboli Gardens themselves) for 18 euros.
What you shouldn’t expect from the Boboli Gardens in Florence is that they are well-groomed and tourist-oriented, typical of Peterhof. The large park with fountains, statues and grottoes on the Boboli hill behind Palazzo Pitti is in every sense a monument to Renaissance garden art. It was commissioned by the Medici family in 1549, at a time when few ever thought of creating such sumptuous gardens with hedges, fountains and sculptures. It became a model for architects of subsequent eras, gaining the status of a landmark, but in this status it has remained.
The Boboli Gardens will be boring for those who prefer outdoor activities and entertainment, but this area will appeal to anyone who wants to experience the atmosphere of 16th- and 17th-century Florence. The grottos, statues, vegetation in the park have all been restored, but with minimal interference. The Boboli Gardens look as they did 300 years ago.
Here you can not only appreciate the collective work of several architects and sculptors of the Renaissance, but also admire the rose beds. There are about twenty unique varieties of these flowers planted in the park. Finally, the advantage of the Boboli Gardens is the view of the city from its grounds. This panorama, as well as the impressive landscaping, has attracted visitors since 1766, when access to the Boboli Gardens was opened to all comers.
History of the Boboli Gardens in Florence
The history of the Boboli Gardens is inextricably linked to the history of Palazzo Pitti, the great palace built for his family by the Florentine banker Luca Pitti. Historians consider him an associate of Cosimo de Medici, the founder of the famous dynasty, ruler of Florence. It is believed, however, that Pitti’s palace was conceived so that it was superior to the Medici palaces. Ironically, a hundred years later, the Pitti family went bankrupt and the famous palazzo was sold to the Medici family.
The deal took place in 1549. The palace, which was to be the main residence of the Medici, was furnished by Eleonora Toledo, wife of Duke Cosimo I, then governor of Florence and the whole of Tuscany. In the same year the land behind Palazzo Pitti was purchased from the Bogoli family. The misrepresentation of their surname is what gave the territory its name. The Duchess of Tuscany had the idea of arranging a park there and entrusted the project to the court gardener-decorator Niccolò Tribolo.
Tribolo worked on the project only a few months before his death, but he managed to lay down the basic ideas: to lay out the park along the axis, to arrange the trees and flowers in geometric forms, to observe symmetry, and to place an amphitheatre decorated with hedges behind the palazzo. It was Bartolomeo Ammannati, the architect who built Pitti Palace, who finished the design and carried it out.
Since the site did not have a natural reservoir, a water pipe was laid to irrigate the plantings. The water came from the River Arno. It was also used to decorate the grottoes erected by Giorgio Vasari and Bernardo Buantolenti. In spite of the fact that the gardens were closed to the public not only to all comers, but also to Medici guests, opera performances were held in the green amphitheatre from 1476. Apparently, they were attended only by members of the famous family.
A century later, the territory of the gardens increased several times, stretching westward for 700 meters to the Roman Gate of the Florentine fortress wall. Its main axis was the avenue Viottolone, extending at right angles from the main axis designed by Tribolo and Ammannati. During these years, the first third of the 17th century, Giulio Parigi, a pupil of Buantolenti, who was also appointed court architect of the Medici, worked on the park.
Parigi arranged the terraces in an expanded version of the Boboli Gardens and created notable water features, including the Isolotto, an artificial island in the center of a large pool, which in turn houses the Ocean Fountain. Both the sculptural group of the fountain and the statues of Andromeda and Perseus next to it are the fruits of the work of the sculptor-magnaire Giambologna.
In 1631, Parigi rebuilt the amphitheater, keeping the design, but replacing the plant material with stone. Later an Egyptian obelisk from Luxor, preserved in the Medici art collection, was installed in its center. Thus by the end of the XVII century the Boboli Gardens had acquired the image familiar to tourists today. In the XVIII century the park was enriched by the buildings of the Coffee House and Lemon House, as well as numerous garden sculptures.
What to see
A walk through the Boboli Gardens introduces Renaissance architecture, sculpture from both the Renaissance and Antiquity and the first examples of the Florentine gardening style that spread in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There are several objects worth paying attention to when visiting the Medici-created park.
On the main axis.
The journey of tourists passing through Palazzo Pitti to the garden begins with the amphitheater . Since the eighteenth century, this spacious area with an obelisk and a granite pool in the center has been used for ceremonial events. In front of the Obelisk is the fountain “Artichoke”. made up of sculptures that were previously used to decorate the Isoloto. The fighting cupids, figures of nymphs, satyr and other mythical characters make it possible to appreciate this fountain as a Mannerist work of art.
The central axis extends southward, climbing the hill, and beyond the amphitheater guests enter the Cypress Alley . From this, narrower paths branch off, which in places turn into green grottos because of the intertwined branches that form an arch above them. At the end of the main axis is the Neptune fountain. , sculptures of which can be seen from afar. The sea god is depicted in the midst of a battle with Athena for the position of patron of this city. Behind the fountain is the statue of Abundance, and at the southernmost boundary is the Porcelain Museum.
In the southeast corner, at the highest point of Boboli Hill, is the Belvedere fortress. The Medici built it to defend themselves against the townsfolk in the event of rebellion – the cannons were always pointed at the town. From the fortress you have a great view of Florence. It is worth stopping here to enjoy the magnificent panorama.
East of the main axis
To the east of the amphitheater is the Boboli Gardens, which were only ennobled in the 18th century. On the same axis as the boundary of the amphitheatre closest to the castle is the fountain of Ganymede, decorated with a sculpture of an eagle that kidnaps a handsome young man. Next to it, if you go to the Belvedere fortress, you will find the Kaffeehaus pavilion, built here in the 18th century. The building was designed in rococo style.
In the north of the park, at the entrance to the Pitti palazzo and the Vasari corridor, there is the Large Grotto designed by Buantolenti. Its interior is stylized as a cave and decorated with paintings and statues of shepherds and sheep that hid here from the storm. You can see the grotto inside only at a certain time and only for 10 minutes. Check the schedule on the official website. The same applies to the grotto Madama, which is open to tourists only on certain days of spring and June in the morning.
On the west side
The main avenue on the west side, designed by Parigi, is Viottolone. It connects the main axis and the exit of the Boboli Gardens near the Roman Gate. The main attraction in this part of the park is Isolotto, an island in a pond decorated with statues of Perseus and Andromeda created by Giambologna. On the island itself is the Ocean Fountain .
Not far from Isolotto closer to the northern edge of the gardens is the Lemon House . It was built to house citrus trees for the winter, which were not planted in the gardens, but were arranged in tubs. Today about 500 plants from Boboli Gardens are wintering in the 106 meter long building. The architecture of the Lemon House, built by Zanobi dell’Rosso in 1777, is also remarkable.
Tickets to the Boboli Gardens can be purchased both at the box office of the Palazzo Pitti and online through the official website. With this ticket you can also visit the nearby Bardini Garden. The full price is €6 and the discount is €2. Only EU citizens between 18 and 26 years old may use the discount. But young visitors under 18 years of any nationality are allowed free. To exercise the right of free entry, you will need to show any document confirming your identity and age.
There is also a service of booking tickets. It allows you not only a guaranteed sightseeing, but also to come to buy tickets at the appointed time and not stand in a general queue at the ticket office. For Boboli Gardens reservation service is available on the official website and costs € 3.
How to get to the Boboli Gardens in Florence
There are several entrances to the Boboli Gardens. If you plan to enter them from the side of Palazzo Pitti, it is better to go to the Piazza San Felice stop. Take bus number 11 to get there. You can also get to the Pitti stop by buses C3, C4.
Another option is to go from the Roman Gate. The needed stop is called Porta Romana 28. To get there, take buses 37, 131, 131R, 365A, 366A, 368A, 370A, 371A and 372A. There is another suitable stop nearby – Calza Romana, which can be reached by bus number 11.
If you need to save time, it is better to take a cab. You can call a car in Florence through Uber, AppTaxi, It Taxi and other applications.