Boboli Gardens, a botanical museum in the open air
If we were still in the medical age, we would have no idea how much beauty lies behind the walls of the Boboli Gardens. In fact, until the second half of the 18th century, only members of the Medici family had access to it. Fortunately, it is now possible not only to walk in it from four entrances, but also to enjoy the magnificence of a unique park.
The Boboli Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, was created in 1400 as a garden annexed to the Medici residence, Palazzo Pitti, and covers an area of approximately 45,000 square metres.
The work was the result of the skilful hand of architect and sculptor Niccolò Tribolo, one of the greatest exponents of Mannerism, a Renaissance artistic movement that took hold in Italy in the 16th century.
Listing everything you should really see in the Boboli Gardens is impossible, because every corner of this space would be worth exploring. What you can do, and should do, is to clear your head on the first five things you absolutely must not miss, promising yourself right now to come back and visit whatever you leave behind.
The Artichoke Fountain and the Luxor Obelisk
The first thing you will see when passing through the courtyard of the Pitti Palace to enter the Boboli Gardens is the Artichoke Fountain. Its name is fully justified by its appearance: it is in fact an octagonal basin at the centre of which stands a candelabra fountain with a marble shaft decorated with bronze festoons.
Moving on, you will get to the Amphitheatre, where it will be impossible not to notice the huge obelisk from Luxor, which was placed in the park in 1789. Not far away the Neptune Fountain and the sculpture by the Flemish sculptor Giambologna dedicated to Abundance.
The Rococo of the Kaffeehaus
Descending the hill to the north-east, at the height of the Statue of Abundance, you reach the Kaffeehaus, the rococo-style pavilion where an exotic windowed dome is the undisputed star. The German name was decided upon by Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine, who later became Emperor Leopold II of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
This palace, built by architect Zanobi del Rosso in 1776, is the visual vanishing point of the Viottolone. As a rule, the Kaffeehaus is closed to the public, but at certain times of the year it opens on an exceptional basis.
Downhill among the cypresses
Two rows of cypress trees planted in 1637 frame the avenue downhill. Next to the trees on both sides, amazing vegetation. At the intersections with the three transversal avenues, a series of statues positioned symmetrically. It seems incredible to think that in all these years nature has allowed itself to be tamed and managed to create such a geometric spectacle for those who love symmetries.
The view from the Knight's Garden
If what you are looking for is a breathtaking view, the best vantage point is the Knight’s Garden. It stands on the ramparts designed by Michelangelo and to get there you have to climb a pincer staircase where you will encounter two statues by Giovanni Battista Caccini depicting Flora and Jupiter. Here, Giambologna has again left his mark with The Fountain of the Monkeys, recognisable by the three bronze monkeys at the base.
When the Limonaia was a shelter for exotic animals
In the time of Cosimo III, what is now a lemon house was a menagerie for exotic animals, those that the penultimate Grand Duke of Tuscany so loved to buy.
Today, the structure, which maintains a mild temperature and dry microclimate inside thanks to its dirt floor, houses dozens of lemon plants in large terracotta pots.
Many of the plants within it are said to be ancient; some swear that they were cultivated by the Medici and have survived the passage of time.
Done with your visit? Don't forget to plan the next one: The Neptune Basin, The Garden of Madama, The Garden of Jupiter and much more is still there to see.