Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Boboli Gardens, Florence



When you are as rich and powerful as the Medici family was in the 16th century, you can do pretty much anything you want. That includes using the eleven acres behind your palace to build a private garden. And 100 years later, after you family is our of power, that garden becomes part of one of Europe's premier art museums.

Adam and Eve Grotto

Today, the Boboli Gardens, named for the hill they sit on, is the outdoor sculpture garden of the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, Italy. It occupies 111 acres behind the Pitti Palace, which was the home of the Medici family. This expansion took place when the entire complex was given to the Uffezi in the 18th century.

There are four entrances to the gardens. One each at its east and west end, one near the center, and one directly from the Pitti Palace, for those who purchase a ticket for both. Whichever way you choose to enter, I suggest starting your visit at the Amphitheater. This large open space delineates one of the main axises of the garden, beginning at the palace’s Artichoke Fountain and climbing up to the northern side of the garden. At the center the amphitheater is a Roman obelisk, and its sides are lined with statues representing figures from Roman mythology.


Artichoke Fountain

If you walk west from the Amphitheater you will come some beautiful views of the old city of Florence, looking past the Palazzo Vecchio to the Duomo. Continuing in this direction, the path will take you to the Madama Garden and the Madama or Goat Grotto, which was built in 1570 by Buontalenti.


The Goat Grotto

When you return to the Amphitheater, you can walk its paths up to Neptune’s Fountain and then to the Statue of Abundance, which is close to the garden’s highest elevation.  


After you have enjoyed the view from area near Abundance, head south east on the path to the Chestnut Meadow. This open plateau is lined with trees and statues. From here there are wonderful views of the southern part Florence. 

Chestnut Meadow

Leaving the Chestnut Meadow, there are several paths leading down to the eastern end of the gardens. The widest, and most crowded is the Cypress Lane, down the center of the garden. On either side of this wide avenue are smaller gardens,  often hidden from view by hedges or trees. One place to visit is the Fountain of the Little Birds, which is set in a beautiful little glade.  

Cypress Lane



At the bottom of the hill is the Isolotto, This small island sits in the center of a reflecting pond. On the island is the fountain of the Oceans, built by Giambologna. While the island is closed to visitors, the fountain is impressive even from the surrounding path, which island with statues of wind and fish.

Fountain of the Ocean


Boboli Gardens is a great place to spend an afternoon. You can bring lunch, although picnicking is officially limited to area near the Madama Garden. Be Warned, the hill is steep, with an 80m change in altitude from the Isolotto to Abundance, and the paths can be slippery, especially after a rain. But the gardens, statues, and views of the city are worth the trip.


Thursday, November 23, 2023

A Flâneur in Florence


When a person writes about visiting a city, myself included, they tend to write about specific sights, cultural institutions, or events. But one of the joys of visiting a city is just getting out and walking around. Taking in the sights and sounds of someplace new, someplace different.  

Porto Romano


My first two days in Florence, I just spent time wandering through its historic center. I have visited before, but this time I really just wanted to look. so with no specific destination, I left me hotel and wandered, camera in hand. This is what I found, in no particular order.  

Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli

Ponte Vecchio in the rain

Ponte Vecchio

Along the Arno

Santo Spirito Church

Leonardo Tozzi, Cobbler

Dante's Church

Perseus with the head of Medusa by Cellini

Piazza de Santo Spirito

Santo Spirito Church

David by Michaelangelo

Dante Meeting Beatrice by Mario D'Ellia


Piazza de La Signorina

Hercules and Nessus by Giambologna

Palazzo Vecchio

The Duomo

San Lorenzo Basilica


Menelaus bearing the corpse of Patroclus

So, make sure that you spend time just walking around a city when you visit. You find many things both expected and surprising when you do.