In 1418, Luca Pitti purchased land to build a palace. Palazzo Pitti was built there about forty years later. The task of creating the gardens was entrusted to Niccolò Tribolo by the Medici who had become the new owners of the Palazzo. And, following Tribolo’s untimely death, they passed to Bartolomeo Ammannati, who completed them.
The Boboli Gardens lay behind Palazzo Pitti and are certainly among the most beautiful Italian gardens. They act as an en plein air museum where statues, terraces, fountains and buildings alternate with aromatic hedgerows, flower beds and trees.
Bacchino and others
Inside the garden there are many impressive Roman statues from Trajan’s Forum but the one that attracts the most attention among the statues is Bacchino. The statue depicts the most popular dwarf from the court of Cosimo de Medici I. Drunk and completely naked, he rides a turtle. The portly dwarf Morgante was sculpted by Valerio Cioli in 1560.
Next to this fountain is the entrance to the Vasari Corridor which passes over the Ponte Vecchio and connects Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti through the Uffizi.
Il Viottolone is the main walkway. Surrounded by ancient trees, it crosses the Prato dell’Uccellare, which houses the work of the contemporary sculptor Igor Mitoraij.
The secret gardens
Secret gardens are a characteristic of Italian gardens and can also be found in the Boboli Gardens. These are generally separate areas that can be reached through paths in the greenery. Il Giardino del Cavaliere is the garden within the garden at Boboli. It is situated on ramparts which were built by Michelangelo in 1529.
Here you can find hedges of boxwood and rare fragrant herbs, the ‘monkey fountain’ and the Casino del Cavaliere which was once the Grand Dukes’ place of leisure and is now the Porcelain Museum.
The architectural masterpieces in the gardens
The amphitheatre is one of the first buildings and it was inaugurated in 1637. It originally contained the Fontana dell’Oceano, which was relocated in the 17th century to allow for theatrical performances to take place. An Egyptian obelisk observes this scene from above due to the wishes of Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo.
The irrigation system to collect water is ingenious and is adorned by the Fontana del Nettuno, known locally as Fontana della Forchetta. It dates back to 1777.
Towards the inside of the garden is a mannerist masterpiece, the Grotta of Buontalenti, built between 1583-1593. Vasari and Buontalenti were commissioned to create this by Francesco I De ’Medici.
There are three rooms where fountains and frescoes reign; these rooms are covered with decorative shells, stalactites, sponges and statues as an ode to the passion for alchemy that the Grand Duke held. Among these statues, the one that predominantly stands out is the Venus coming out of the water by Giambologna.
And among the buildings there is the unmissable Kaffeehaus, the Rococo pavilion which offers a beautiful view of Florence.
The Palazzina della Meridiana houses the Costume Gallery.
Finally, one can witness the Limonaia which can still be seen in the original Lorraine green colour. For centuries it housed exotic animals of the court and also citrus plants. It still today contains plants from the Medici era.