Boboli Gardens is a type of pleasure garden situated in Florence in Italy. It is one of the largest and splendid gardens in the world and most elegant Italian style garden. It extends from the hill behind the Pitti palace as far as Porta Romania. It is the main seat of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany at Florence. It is approximately a 111 acres garden behind the Pitti palace, extending to modern Fort Belvedere.
It was started by Niccolò di Raffaello di Niccolò dei Pericoli, popularly known as Niccolo Tribolo. He converted the area into one of the most splendid and spectacular Renaissance gardens and worked at what he called his “green architecture”. The Boboli Gardens was actually laid out for Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wife Eleanora di Toledo. Designed in structured and geometric Italian Renaissance style, the initial phase of the work was started by Niccolo Tribolo until he died in 1550, then further work was continued by Bartolomeo Ammannati along with Giorgio Vasari (he laid out the grottos) and Bernardo Buontalenti (designed the Large Cave) and Giambologna. Buontalenti also made the elaborate architecture of the grotto in the courtyard that separates the palace from its garden.
Over the years the domain underwent several expansions, enlargements and additions of statues and fountains. It was opened to the public in 1776. The garden has no natural water source; water from the Arno is transported through a conduit.
THE GARDENS AND ITS ATTRACTIONS
The garden is triangular in shape and is characterized by two orthogonal axes which meet at Bacino di Nettuno or Neptune’s Basin. The leaning axes evolve through a series of sculptures, terraces, green elements and paths which introduce to particular environments: glades, fences, gardens, building. It is an elegant blend of natural and artistic work. The enormous evenly divided green surface is an open-air museum, containing mostly antique, renaissance statues, wonderful fountains, ponds, grottos and hidden paths. The garden is among the finest classical parks and has sundry other attractions to look for.
In the first phase of the garden an amphitheater was built adjoined to the hill behind Pitti palace. It was initially formed by edges and evergreen meadows but was later built in masonry. It was decked with ancient statues and sculptures based on the Roman myths like- fountain “dell’Oceano” or the Fountain of the Ocean sculpted by Giambologna ( was later transported to another part within the same garden) the small “Grotta di madama and the Grotta Grande also known as Grotta del Buontalenti (begun by Vasari but completed by Ammannati and Buontalenti). These statues in spite of, currently, undergoing restoration works still continue to be remarkable examples of Mannerist architecture and culture.
Its interior and exterior are decorated with stalactites and are authentically animated by waterworks and luxuriant vegetation. It’s mainly composed of 3 environments- first, painted in frescoes to create the illusion of a natural cave where animals and shepherds move and houses the Michelangelo’s Prisoners’ replica. The room that follows contains important sculptures like “Bathing Venus” by Giambologna and the group of “Paris and Helan” by Vincenzo de Rossi.
Walking towards Porta Romana, after the Prato dell’Uccellare, is the Viottolone- a large boulevard flanked by cypresses and statuettes that led to the square dell’Isolatto made by Giulio and Alfonso Parigi in 1618. In the center of this is the “dell’Oceano”, surrounded by sculptures representing the Nile, the Ganges and the Euphrates. Other mesmerizing works found in the amphitheater are: the fountain called del’Forcone (pitchfork) or Vivaio de Nettuno (nursery of Neptune) and the large statue dell’Abbondanza (abundance).
Bacchus Fountain in the Boboli gardens is one of the most singular fountains in the park. It was sculpted by Valerio Cioli in 1560. It’s situated in the north-west area of the Piazza dei Pitti, next to the exit of the Vasari Corridor’s passage. This specific statues actually represents the court dwarf, (ironically nicknamed Morgante), happily drunk Bacchino and completely naked while riding a turtle. It actually depicts Pierto Barbino (the court jester of duke Cosimo I) as Bacchus the roman god of wine. Nearby, two Roman statues of Dacian prisoners lie on both the side of the park’s entrance.
The Grotta Grande or the Grotta del Buontalenti is located on the left side of the park’s entrance. It was designed by Buontalenti and was built between 1583 and 1588. It consists of 3 connected chambers, each of which contains different statues and sculptures.
The first chamber contains the unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo, created for the tomb of Pope Julius II, – the statue of four slaves. However now it contains only the replicas of the statues as the originals were moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia. The second chamber houses the statue of “Paris and Helena” by Vincenzo de’ Rossi sculpted in 1560. The third chamber contains the statue of Bathing Venus by Giambologna created in 1565.
The niches of the Grottos facade depicts the statues of Apollo and Ceres, which often remains closed to the visitors.
Kaffeehaus is an elegant Rococo styled pavilion, built in 1775. It was built by Zanobi del Rosso for Emperor Leopoldo II. Kaffeehaus at present is used as a coffee house and at the center of the garden, below the Kaffeehaus, is a small fountain depicting the Greek hero Ganymede climbing an eagle.
Knight’s Garden or Giardano del Cavaliere is a small formal rose garden. At the center of the Garden is situated a small fountain. This is the place where Italy’s first potatoes were grown and silkworms were bred. The small building fencing the Garden contains the Porcelain Museum.
WHEN CAN YOU VISIT?
The galleries are invariably closed on Mondays. Garden opening hours vary according to time of year: November/February: 08.15 am – 04.30 pm
March and October: 08.15 am – 05.30 pm
April, May and September: 08.15 am – 06.30 pm
June/August: 08.15 am – 07.30 pm.
It remains Closed on the first and on the last Monday of each month, on New Year’s Day, on May the 1st and on Christmas.