The Boboli Gardens: the green heart of Florence
The Medici family’s open-air museum
The Boboli Gardens, the green heart of Florence, is a crown jewel of art and nature, commissioned by the Medici family: one of the largest and most elegant Italian gardens in the world. It is, in fact, a veritable open-air museum, with sculptures that date from Roman times to the 17th century. Architects such as Vasari, Ammannati and Bernardo Buontalenti created Boboli from the 16th to the 19th century, resulting in a truly unique interweaving of styles.
Visiting Boboli always leads to new discoveries: we start at the Amphitheatre, home to the huge Egyptian obelisk that came from Luxor and was positioned here in 1789, while, further on, we find the Neptune’s Fountain, or Fontana “del Forcone” after the large sculpture by Stoldo Lorenzi depicting the sea deity holding a trident. At the top of the hill the striking statue of Abundance stands out: Giambologna was inspired by the face of Joanna of Austria, wife of Francesco I.
Going down towards Porta Romana, after the Prato dell’Uccellare, is the Viottolone, a large path edged by cypresses and statues, which leads to the Piazzale dell’Isolotto. This little square is dominated by the great Fontana dell’Oceano, by Giambologna, which is surrounded by three sculptures representing the Nile, Ganges and Euphrates rivers. All around are other statues depicting both classic and popular subjects (these last date to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), such as the ones portraying groups of children playing traditional games or Perseus on horseback emerging from the water.
Do not miss the pastel green Kaffeehaus, added by the Lorraine family in 1775, the Limonaia and the Meridiana building, which is home to the Costume Gallery.
Our visit ends at the Grotta Grande, created by Buontalenti from 1583 to 1593, commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici: an extraordinary combination of painting, sculpture and architecture. It once contained the unfinished Prigioni by Michelangelo, which can now be seen in the Accademia Gallery. The theme is unshaped material that achieves harmony through alchemy: the rocks, stalagtites and shells on the walls appear in human and animal figures carved by Pietro Mati.
Two more interesting finds: the original Bacchino fountain of 1560, of the Dwarf Morgante riding a tortoise dressed as the god Bacchus and the monumental bronze head of Igor Mitoraj in Prato dell’Uccellare, which has stayed in the garden after the exhibition on the Polish artist in 2002.
For information and opening hours: www.polomuseale.firenze.it