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.
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.
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.
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.