Boboli Gardens are the most famous and vast of Florence’s parks and gardens. Spread over 45,000 square meters, they are an important part of Florence’s history and atmosphere. And one of the most important examples of Italianate Gardens in the world.
The impressive gardens that rise up behind the Pitti Palace require a few hours to be truly appreciated and some comfortable shoes. Take your time to enjoy a peaceful walk amongst cypress and holm oak trees, box edges, fountains and statues, and let the city unravel before your eyes at the garden’s highest point.
It was in this vast, elegant park that the Medici entertained their guests, one of the earliest Renaissance gardens that inspired many European courts. One might argue that today it doesn’t have the same splendour that once gave it fame, but it’s still a fascinating place filled with history and an air of nostalgia. Don’t expect colourful flowers and perfectly trimmed borders, because you won’t find them here. Boboli is a charming place with the romance of an old sepia photo.
You can easily spend half a day exploring the secrets of the Boboli Gardens, and finding the best spots for photos of statues hidden in the greenery. Or you can simply relax in one of its quiet corners.
What to see in Boboli Gardens:
Near the Palace you’ll spot some fake grottos that used to have water-effect filled with statues. The most famous, the Grotta Grande, is a mannerist fantasy designed by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, dripping with phoney stalactites. It has three chambers of allegorical statues, that speak of alchemy, natural elements and sensuality. The most intriguing is Giambologna’s “Venus” in the last chamber. Unfortunately you can’t go inside but from the gate you can at least get a g.
A large avenue leads you to the Isolotto in the southern part of the park. It’s a big pond with an island at its centre and various statues of mythical and fantastical creatures. Perseus emerges from the water on horseback, and Giambologna’s “Oceanus” watches over his small sea, surrounded by the statues of three rivers (Ganges, Nile, Euphrates). You can also spot Andromeda who is chained to the rock.
A few tips:
Remember that the Boboli Gardens aren’t flat, and some of the walk is on the steep side. We suggest limiting your walking during the hotter summer months, or at least doing it early in the morning. Bring water because there aren’t many places to get refreshment. By the way, you’re not allowed to bring food for picnics.
The Kaffeehaus. The Kaffeehaus is inside an 18th century building commissioned by the Grand Duke Leopold and makes the perfect place to grab a bit of shade and recharge your batteries.
Travelling with kids. If you’re visiting Boboli Gardens with children, why not organise a statue hunt? For example, set them on a hunt for the capricorn – a symbol associated with Cosimo I Medici, who was known for his strength and great leadership.
Did you know? The grotto and the world’s first opera
In the 16th century the Italianate Garden trend took hold. One of the must-have features was the “Grotto”, a reconstruction of a natural cavern, enriched with water features and often fantastical sculptures. The Medici were the first to take the Grotto seriously in the design of their villa gardens.
In 1589 Ferdinando de’ Medici’s married Christine of Lorraine in this garden. The entertainment was provided by Jacopo Peri and Ottavio Rinuccini, who set a classical story to music and became the world’s first opera. The opera was called “Dafne”.