The Boboli Gardens, the famous and wonderful historic Florentine park that extends behind Palazzo Pitti, represent one of the world’s greatest examples of Italian gardens.
The original nucleus of the Boboli Gardens dates back to 1418 when Luca Pitti bought some lands in the Oltrarno area from the Borgolo family with the intention of building a magnificent palace (Palazzo Pitti would only be built on that site 40 years later).
The arrangement of the gardens was entrusted by the Medici, who in the meantime had become owners of the palace, to Niccolò Tribolo, former architect of the gardens of the Medici villas of Castello and della Petraia. However, it was Bartolomeo Ammannati who completed the work after Tribolo’s premature death.
A curiosity in the layout of the gardens is that the stone used to build Palazzo Pitti was taken from there and thus a basin was created in the land that still exists and is clearly visible.
The Boboli Gardens develop on the rear side of the building and are one of the most important examples of 16th-century Italian gardens as well as one of the largest parks in the city of Florence.
In the upper part, the gardens are partly surrounded by the ancient defensive walls belonging to the nearby Forte Belvedere.
Around the main axis there are avenues, hedges, terraces enriched by statues and fountains that make Boboli a real open-air museum, but there are also numerous important buildings that occupy part of the gardens.
One of the first buildings is the amphitheater, inaugurated in 1637 and which originally contained the Ocean Fountain, placed in the 17th century on the islet to allow theatrical performances.
Still today, the amphitheater is dominated by a precious Egyptian obelisk placed in the gardens by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo together with an enormous grey granite basin from the Roman era.
The waters that irrigate the Garden are contained in the Neptune Basin, created in 1777, which houses the Fountain of Neptune, called by the Florentines “Fontana della Forchetta”.
The Boboli Gardens also include many separate green areas such as the Giardino del Cavaliere, built on part of the ramparts created by Michelangelo in 1529.
In this area there are fragrant and rare plants, box hedges and a picturesque fountain called the monkey fountain. The main building of this area is the Casino del Cavaliere, the first place of entertainment for the grand dukes of Tuscany and today the seat of the Porcelain Museum.
Another important building in the garden is the Kaffeehaus, a rococo pavilion from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of Florence and the Ganymede Fountain.
An evocative and curious place is the Grotta di Madama designed by Tribolo and richly decorated with sponges and stalactites.
Among the precious sculptures that enrich the Boboli Gardens we mention the statue of seated Jupiter by Baccio Bandinelli, some statues from the Forum of Trajan and from the Roman era.
The most curious sculpture of the gardens is probably the so-called Bacchino with the homonymous fountain, it is located near Palazzo Pitti and represents the obese dwarf Morgante, the most popular of the court dwarfs of Cosimo I.
Near this fountain is the entrance to the Vasari Corridor, a direct and safe connection to the Uffizi Palace.
Grotta del Buontalenti – Perhaps the most precious building in the Boboli Park is the Grotta del Buontalenti, built between 1583 and 1593. The cave is a masterpiece of architecture and sculpture and a fine example of mannerism. It was begun by Vasari and finished by Buontalenti at the behest of Francesco I de’ Medici. The internal environment is very large and entirely decorated with stalactites, sponges and statues in the style linked to the alchemy that the grand duke loved.
In fact, the elements of nature seem to come to life and emerge from the walls, as do the famous Prisoners by Michelangelo, originally located here before being moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia. There are three rooms in the cave and they include decorations with shells and sponges and works such as the Venus coming out of the bath by Giambologna. The frescoes inside the dome and the water features inside the cave complete the unique and bizarre style of the place.
The largest space of the Boboli Gardens is the Prato dell’Uccellare, crossed by the Viottolone that crosses it and surrounded by secular trees and houses a sculpture by the contemporary artist Igor Mitoraij. The avenues that flank the Viottolone are wide and full of sculptures, such as the Olympic Jupiter attributed to Giambologna or the series of Players, a curious representation of the main games in vogue at the time of the grand duchy.
The largest pool of water in the Gardens is the Vasca dell’Isola or Isolotto built in 1618. This place is full of precious works of art mostly created by Giambologna such as the Perseus and the Andromeda.
Other important buildings are the Limonaia, which still preserves plants from the Medici era, and once intended to house exotic plants and animals that aroused the curiosity of the Medici and the Palazzina della Meridiana where the Costume Gallery is now located.
It is possible to enter the Boboli Gardens from four different entrances:
Main door of Palazzo Pitti (Piazza de’ Pitti, 1)
Annalena (via Romana, 37/a)
Piazzale di Porta Romana