Tuesday, June 27, 2017


If anyone tells you that Florence is flat, don't believe it !

In truth, much of Florence is flat, as the city is built along the Arno River, but once you cross over the Arno from the Historic Center to the south side of the city called the Oltrarno things can change. Our destination on a early May afternoon was the Boboli Garden. The entrance to the garden is behind the Pitti Palace, a former residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de' Medici (1519-1574) and his wife, Eleanora de Toledo. They purchased the palazzo from Luca Pitta.

This Cosimo is not to be mistaken for Cosimo de' Medici ( 1389-1464)  the Renaissance  powerhouse, founder of the Medici Bank and patron of the arts in Florence. He was grandfather to Lorenzo de' Medici known as Lorenzo the Magnificent.

The very formal Amphitheater is build on flat ground just behind the Pitti Palace, it is quite easy to imagine the members of the Medici family and their guests strolling on a summer evening. In the center is an Egyptian Obelisk that was brought from a Medici Villa in Rome. I guess they must have figured that Rome had plenty of Egyptian Obelisks, why not bring that one to Florence.

From here it is all up.

The center piece of Florence is the Duomo and Brunelleschi's Dome. From this vantage point the view is just about eye level to the famous dome.

The garden has inspired the design of many Italian gardens. There are avenues lined with clipped hedges of boxwood, and alloro.  Wide cedar lined gravel paths take you past statuary sculpted  in marble and bronze which create visual stops along the way.  I was happy to find benches placed along the walks for moments of rest and welcomed shade. Throughout the garden are nymphems and fountains that speak to the formality of the design and wealth of the Medici family.
 One of the treasures that we must find before we leave is the mysterious Buontalenti Grotto.

More stairs yet to conquer!
James and Paul are up there ahead of Betty and I, we still have that final climb to make to the top of Boboli Hill.

On the top of Florence we found flowers.....roses and peonies... and expansive views over Tuscany. The Boboli Garden is grand in scale stretching from the Pitti Palace to Florence's Porta Romana which in the 1600's was the main gate into the city.

Our timing was perfect, the roses were in full bloom and the peonies just opening. I have to admit, and I think the others would agree, it was worth the climb.


A Rose Garden with a  Tuscan view.

I wonder how often the Medici walked up to the top of their garden?
My guess...they went on horseback!

The building at the end of the garden is the Casino del Cavaliere, which the Medici family used as a place of recreation. It currently houses the Porcelain Museum.

But where is the Grotto?

From this vantage point in the garden, we are high above the city of Florence as we look down at the Duomo.

Our descent begins....

..........with a walk past the 'Kaffeehaus' that was built in the 18th Century. The Boboli Garden is a 'work in progress' it's fair to say. There is constant restoration work and upkeep to maintain the
vast expanse of gardens and buildings.

Just before we are ready to leave....

we stumble upon this...
The Grotto by Buontalenti!

Giorgio Vasari laid out the plans for the grotto and Sculptor, Bernardo Buontalenti was responsible for the sculpture and the ornamentation of this crazy, strange and beautiful Grotto.  Stalactites and shell ornamentation  create the cavelike dwelling in a corner of the garden. The design and sculptural elements are Mannerist in style.

Shepherds would take refuge in the grotto to keep from the wild animals roaming the countryside, so the cave grotto served both form and function.

See the grey door to the left, that is the entrance to The Vasari Corridor.
 Giorgio Vasari designed a 'secret' passageway for the Medici that would take them from the Pitti Palace across the top of the Ponte Vecchio and on to the Palazzo Vecchio therefore never having to walk amongst the public.
 But, that my friends, is another complete story.

It is time for the four of us to go over to The Golden View for a Aperol Spritz. after all, we've earned it!

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