Early morning view of Florence from the Boboli Gardens Terrace
Friday morning dawned dry and promising so, having foregone a wet afternoon there on Thursday, I decided to get packed and hurry over to the Pitti Palace and gain entry to The Boboli Gardens when they opened at 8.15. This gave me about an hour and a half to walk around, check out the most significant features and return to the apartment to collect my bag by 10am and head to the Railway Station to pick up our bus to Pisa Airport.
My must-see/do list for Florence consisted of the Perfume Trail, a trip out to Fiesole and a visit to The Boboli Gardens. The 90-Minute Renaissance Tour was excellent for orientation and I’m so glad that I saw some of the Renaissance treasures that Florence has to offer. I can now well understand why these attractions are world famous and the historic city centre is UNESCO protected. Maybe one day I’ll go back for more.
Lunette of Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace painted by the Flemish artist Giusto Utens in 1599 (Photo p.117 “Edith Wharton’s Italian Gardens” by Vivian Russell.
Again the Eyewitness Florence and Tuscany Guidebook features a double page spread showing the main sights and in advance I worked out a trail that would cover most of them.
“The Boboli Gardens were laid out for the Medici in 1550, one year after they bought the Palazzo Pitti. A perfect example of stylized Renaissance gardening, they were opened to the public in 1766. The more formal parts of the garden, nearest the palazzo, consist of box hedges clipped into symmetrical geometric patterns. These lead to wild groves of ilex and cypress trees, planted to create a contrast between artifice and nature. Statues of varying styles and periods are dotted around, and the vistas were planned to give views over Florence.”
My trail took me out of the rear of the palazzo onto a terrace with the view of Florence shown at the top. Then past neat parterres to the Grotta Grande and famous Bacchus Fountain.
Grotta Grande: a Mannerist folly (1583-93)
Bacchus Fountain (1560) (also know as Boboli Man) astride a turtle (Copy of original)
I walked up through the amphitheatre to the Neptune Foutain, turned right and passed down the Viottolone or Avenue of Cypress trees planted in 1612! and lined with classical statues.
Neptune Fountain (1565-58)
Tindaro Screpalato Bronze head by Igor Mitoraj (1998)
Avenue of Cypress Trees
The Viottolone is lined with statues
At the end of the avenue of cypresses is L’Isolotto (or Little Island) in the centre is a copy of the original statue of Oceanus now to be seen in the Bargello Gallery.
Beyond L’Isolotto is a semi-circular lawn or hemicycle. From here it was time to take the level lower path back to the Palazzo passing the Orangerie and another lawned area.
The Hemicycle Lawn
I found that I had just enough time to walk through another garden to view the Kaffeehaus a Rococo-style pavilion built in 1774. It’s open in summer as a cafe in summer and offers beautiful views over the city.
All too soon it was time to return back through the palazzo to the Casa Guidi imagining Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lady’s maid, Lily, pushing baby Pen Browning in his pram around the gardens and enjoying a lot more sunshine. But I was very happy to have visited and now know definitely that I would visit again.