The Boboli Gardens is one of the most famous and beautiful park ensembles in Italy. It is among the best creations of the Renaissance. The natural landmark is located near the Pitti Palace, formerly the residence of the Medici ducal family. Walking here, you can admire the magnificent view of Florence, appreciate the majestic sculptural compositions, watch the luxurious fountains and relax in the shade of ancient trees. The park area is available for recreation at any time of the year.
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Video: Boboli Gardens
The original information about the Boboli Gardens can be found in archival documents from the 16th century. In those years, Cosimo I de’ Medici, Duke of Tuscany, bought the Pitti Palace. While inspecting his possessions, he discovered that behind the building was a high hill and a deserted lawn. The view from the hill was wonderful. The duke’s wife, Eleanor of Toledo, had the idea of creating a huge park on this spot. She wanted it to be furnished in style – it would allow her and her husband to emphasize their influence and wealth.
The talented sculptor Niccolò Tribolo was put in charge of the landscaping. Unfortunately, he never managed to complete his grandiose project during his lifetime. The work was continued by the architect Bartolomeo Ammannati, assisted by the masters Giorgio Vasari, Bernardo Buontaletti, Giulio and Alfonso Parigi. The Boboli Gardens later became the prototype of most royal gardens in European countries.
Alley in the Boboli Gardens On the Turtle
The Medici family paid much attention to the decoration of their garden. Spacious meadows, quaint alleys and cozy groves were complemented by unusual decorative complexes. The owners, architects, sculptors and gardeners formed a veritable outdoor museum. The duke and his wife often received guests – they organized secular receptions and theatrical performances. Sometimes noble visitors came here to join the opera art.
The present state
During the following centuries the Boboli Gardens were reconstructed several times. In 17th century the area of the park had expanded to 4.5 ha, which it still remains today. Everyone could visit the park only in 1766.
“View from the Boboli Gardens” by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1834).
Today, the Boboli Gardens are a highlight of horticultural art. The park is a unique museum – its exposition allows visitors to get acquainted with the sculptures created during antiquity. When you come here, you can also see theater and opera performances.
For the convenience of walking, the park area is divided by axial gravel paths. The central path begins at the amphitheater – follow it to the back of the palace. In the structure of the ancient model the first world-class opera productions were organized. In the center of the amphitheater there is an ancient Egyptian obelisk from Luxor, transported by the Medici family from their villa in Rome. The main pathway is decorated by the fountain of Neptune, jokingly called “the fountain with a fork” by the local population. This name came from the fact that the figure of the Roman patron of the sea holds a trident, a symbol of power. Nearby is a staircase, up which you will find yourself in a hall with the muses.
The Horseman Statue The Shady Alleys
There are Roman statues all over the Boboli Gardens. The originals of many of them are kept in designated areas, while the overview shows elaborately made copies. This is due to the great historical value of the sculptures. In the northern part of the park you can find a platform with an excellent view of the city. There is also the Coffee House, opened back in the XVIII century. At the opposite end of the complex in a small pond is the artificially created island Isolotto. Here, visitors can enjoy the beauty of greenhouses with rare varieties of roses and citrus trees in tubs.
The picturesque vegetation of Boboli Gardens deserves special attention. Along the paths, stone oaks and huge cypresses grow, and ivy curls over many paths. Trees, hedges, lawns and flowers give the park an unusual and charming character. Avenues of cypress trees, evergreen hedges and shrubs that form perfectly even elements make the park complex not only a living work of art, but also an invaluable testament to the rich history of Italian gardening. Keeping the exotic museum in order requires considerable effort from experienced gardeners. The gardens are constantly being restored by planting new plants and removing old ones.
Features of the visit
It takes less than two hours to travel from Italy’s major tourist cities of Rome and Milan. From November to February you can walk here from 8.15 to 16.30, and in March and October the visit is available until 17.30. In the rest of the spring and autumn months park opening hours are increased by an hour, the longest it is open in July and August – until 19:30. Keep in mind that an hour before closing time is no longer possible to enter, at which time visitors gradually leave the park complex. The gardens are not open on holidays, the first and last Mondays of the month.
Entrance tickets to the Boboli Garden are of two types – the first allows you to enter the Pitti Palace, while the other allows you to stroll directly through the garden. Their cost is 7 and 10 euros respectively. Tourists who belong to the preferential categories of visitors can count on a discount.
The address of Boboli Gardens: Piazza Pitti, 1. The nearest bus stops are Bus 11,36 (stop San Felice) and bus number D (stop Pitti).
Full ticket for 6 euros, concessionary (for EU citizens aged between 18 and 26 years) for 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 Boboli Gardens proper) for 18 euros.
What one should not expect from the Boboli Gardens in Florence is the grooming and tourist-oriented characteristic of Peterhof. A large park with fountains, statues and grottoes, spread out 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. Boboli Gardens look as it 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 pink 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 water 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 only members of the famous family attended them.
A century later, the territory of the gardens had increased several times, stretching westward for 700 meters to the Roman Gate of the Florentine fortress wall. Its main axis was the Alley of Viottolone, which branches off at right angles to 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, sculptures from both the Renaissance and Antiquity, as well as the first examples of the Florentine garden and park style that spread to Europe in the 17th and 18th 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 case 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.
To the north of the park, at the entrance to the Pitti palazzo and the Vasari corridor, is the Great 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 either at the box office of the Palazzo Pitti or online through the official website. With this ticket you can also visit the nearby Bardini Garden. The full price is €6 and the discounted price 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.