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. Boboli Gardens are located in the Oltrarno, in Florence’s historic centre.

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.

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Pitti Palace and Boboli gardens – photo @Clarissavannini860 on pixabay

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 intriguing atmosphere. Don’t expect colourful flowers and perfectly trimmed borders, because you won’t find them here. The most colourful spot is the garden near the Limonaia, which in May is in full bloom, with many species of roses.

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Limonaia, the Orangerie with its garden

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. Boboli is a charming place with the romance of an old sepia photo.

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What to see in Boboli Gardens:

Near the entrance from PItti Palace you’ll find some artificial 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.

Admire the Amphitheatre, originally designed in the 16th century and later embellished with statues. This was the area where spectacular shows and celebrations took place. The obelisk is from Egyptian time, and was added in the 18th century.

If you climb directly up from the amphitheatre you find the Bacino di Nettuno (Neptune’s fountain, 1568), with the statue of the God of the Sea fighting some sea monsters. It’s the work by Stoldo Lorenzi. Further up you can admire the statue representing ‘Abundance’ (1608-37).

A large avenue, flanked by cypress trees and a series of statues by different eras, 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.

Join this Guided Tour of Boboli Gardens & Palatine Gallery => Immerse yourself in Tuscan art, architecture, and landscaping. Tick 3 of Florence’s top sights—Pitti Palace, the Palatina Gallery, and Boboli Gardens—off your must-see list on a single tour!

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Boboli Gardens, the Isolotto
By I, Sailko, CC BY 2.5, Link

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 places to get refreshment. By the way, you’re not allowed to bring food for picnics.

The Kaffeehaus – The Kaffeehaus is a 18th century building commissioned by the Grand Duke Leopold, you get a nice view from there.

Another favourite spot for views of the city is the Prato dell’Uccellare (at the start of the Viottolone Avenue). Here you can see the huge bronze sculpture ‘Tindaro Screpolato’ by Igor Mitoraj. This is the first contemporary artwork to be placed in Boboli Gardens.

Limonaia – In the area of the Orangerie there’s a botanical garden that is at its best in Spring, with beautiful variety of roses and other flowers.

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.

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Entrance to Boboli Gardens

There are many entrance points to Boboli Gardens , and at each entrance you can buy the tickets. The main entrance is from Pitti Palace – you pass through a monumental door and enter a beautiful courtyard with a basin and fountain, with a huge statue of Moses. This is also the busiest entrance.

Other entrances are at Porta Romana and in Via Romana (the street that lead from Porta Romana Square to Pitti Palace).

The ticket costs 10 Euro, and it includes the entrance to another historic garden, the Bardini Garden.

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non touristy things to do in florence
Boboli Gardens, Florence – photo @pixabairis on pixabay

Did you know? The grottoes and the world’s first opera

Boboli Garden’s construction work started in 1549, when the wife of Gran Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici (the ruler of Florence) employed Mannerist artist and architect ‘Tribolo’ to design their garden. It’s one of the first and most important example of ‘giardino all’Italiana‘.

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”.

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