Giardino di Boboli - Firenze

The Boboli Garden, Florence

From the hill behind Palazzo Pitti, down towards Porta Romana

Firenze, Palazzo Pitti: giardino dei Boboli
The Garden extends on the hill behind Palazzo Pitti and continues down towards Porta Romana. Thanks to landscaping work carried out over the years, this garden is today one of the biggest and most elegant Italian style gardens. Following the acquisition of Palazzo Pitti by Cosimo I de Medici and his wife Eleonora of Toledo who had decided to make it the official Grand-Ducal palace, work was started on the adjacent land. The initial commission was entrusted to Niccolò Tribolo, but after his death in 1550 other architects worked on the garden's creation. Among them, in the period between 1554 and 1561, was Giorgio Vasari, followed by Bartolomeo Ammannati and, under Francesco I, who had succeeded to his father Cosimo, Bernardo Buontalenti.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Medici and then the Lorena family continue to enrich and expand this garden, which today is full of well cared for lawns, paths, small woodland areas and decorative constructions. These ornamental constructions make the garden a real open air architectural museum as many of the decorations date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The garden was originally home to an outdoor theatre, set against the hill behind the palace. This was originally a green space with an evergreen grove. Walls and ancient sculptures were added later on. The fountain of the Oceano, by Giambalonga was originally located here, but subsequently moved to another location within the garden.

The Grotta di Madama and the Grotta Grande
are both well worth visiting. These grottoes were started by Vasari in 1583 and brought to completion by Ammannati and Buontalenti in 1593. In spite of all the damage caused by time and the elements, this construction is still nevertheless one of the most charming examples of mannerist culture and architecture. The grotto is decorated both on the outside and inside with stalactites and animated by water flows and rich vegetation. The grotto is made up of three consecutive spaces, the first one with frescoes, to give the illusion of a natural cave in which shepherds and wild animals move around. It once contained the Prigioni by Michelangelo, moved here after they became part of the Medicean collections (today they have been replaced with reproductions). In the following space there are important sculptures such as Venus emerging from the water by Giambalonga and Paride and Elena by Vincenzo de Rossi.

Other important stops during a visit to the garden are the fountain “del Forcone” or “Vivaio di Nettuno”, so called because of the statue by Stoldo Lorenzi holding a big three-pronged fork. Also imposing is the big statue of the “Abbondanza” at the top of the hill, started by Giambologna as a portrait of Giovanna d’Austria, wife of Francesco I, but completed in 1637 as an allegorical figurine.

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, by Giulio and Alfonso Parigi (started in 1618). This little square is dominated by the great Fontana dell’Oceano, by Giambalonga, which is surrounded by three sculptures representing the Nile, Gange 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.

Other additions to the garden, carried out in the eighteenth century, gave us the Kaffeehaus (1775), the Limonaia (1777-8), by Zanobi del Rosso and the Meridiana building, started in 1776 by Gaspero Paoletti. In 1789 the Egyptian obelisk from Luxor was placed at the centre of the amphitheatre.

The Boboli Garden
Piazza Pitti – Firenze
Tel. +39 055 2651838