Where do you think we might be for today’s walk? I can tell you that we have passed by the Pitti Palace and are standing on the threshold of the magnificent Boboli Gardens, in Florence. For me, this was somewhere I was always going to go, even if it bounced with rain.
Of course, blue skies would be preferable and, on our first full day, after crossing Ponte Vecchio we beelined to the gardens, bathed in luxuriant azure. Alas, it was a Monday, and the gardens were firmly closed. Undaunted, we carried on up to Piazzale Michelangelo and the city walls for a feast of views. Tweaking our plans a little, next day found us back at the palace gardens. The skies were somewhat leaden, but there was always hope of better. And there were grottos and sculpture to explore, while we waited for the sun’s appearance.
The gardens were designed for Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo 1 de Medici, and have been in existence since the 16th century. Extremely lavish for gardens intended for the sole use of the Medici family, such was Cosimo’s power and prestige in those days. Highlights include an Amphitheatre, staggering in its scale. Stone was excavated from the hillside for their Pitti Palace home, creating the perfect arena. Neptune with his trident sits centre stage as you climb the steps. For most of our visit he had the company of a heron, out for a day’s sightseeing.
Isolotto, a pond surrounded by romantic greenery, is crowned by Giambologna’s fountain, ‘Ocean’, on the central island. For a twist of modern, see the ‘face’ sculpture by Polish Igor Mitoraj. The gardens reach a crescendo with the Grotta del Buontalenti, or ‘Grotta Grande’.
Sometimes your expectations can be too high. Or maybe it was those heavy skies, and the quantity of steps. This bank of the River Arno can certainly be a bit of a workout. Nor is this the best time of year for gardens. But, as sometimes happens, there was a surprise in store. The garden ticket included admission to the Costume Museum. Curiosity had me pull the door ajar.
And gasp! That morning I had been at the Uffizi, and thought my eyes had had their fill of beauty. This was totally unexpected. The only museum in Italy dedicated entirely to fashion, it occupies several rooms in the Palazzina della Meridiana (the small palace of the sundial). A private residence of the ruling families of Tuscany until 1946, the ornate ceilings had me spellbound.
The funeral garments of Eleonora di Toledo are dramatically displayed within the collection, but for me the decor outshone the content. I couldn’t help but wonder at the rest of the Pitti Palace, seeing all this grandeur before me.
Stepping out into sunshine altered my perspective entirely. It was time to head steadily uphill again, in search of a gate. Did I tell you this walk would be strenuous? I’d read that it was possible to slip from the expansive Boboli Gardens into the much more intimate space of Giardino Bardini.
Not quite so simple, but we did find the gate and emerged alongside Forte di Belvedere. The lower part of the Giardino Bardini belonged to the Mozzi family back in the 13th century, when a wall with mosaic alcoves protected the garden from prevailing winds. In the 18th century the estate was extended up the hill to the walls of the city and a Baroque staircase was added. In 1913 art collector Stefano Bardini bought the hillside villa, extending and adding yet more changes. Renovation began again in 2005 and the gardens are now open to the public.
It felt like a triumph to finally reach Giardino Bardini, perched high above the city.
The lower part of the garden is still in a poor state of repair, but there is a lovely old worldly feel to the place, suspended there in the clouds. My main regret, not being a few weeks later to see the wisteria walk in all its glory. I had to content myself with the views down over this lovely city.
The lower entrance brings you out on Via Bardi, close by the river, and your mission is complete. I limped home, tired but happy. I suggest that you take it at a slower pace and sit awhile. There are many places to admire the beauty, including a cafe on the terrace at Giardino Bardini.
Jude, I think you might like this link. Visit Florence is an excellent website which will give you all the details you need, including ticketing information. Do note that the Palace and gardens are closed on the first and last Monday of each month.
Thanks, everyone for reading and participating in my walks. It wouldn’t be the same without you. Details of how to join in are on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Do come along! Let’s pop the kettle on now and settle in for a good read :
Becky reminds me of just what I’m missing in the Algarve. I’ll be back soon!
I’ve been bombarded with walls lately! But in a good way. Thanks, Jude!
A flashback to a beautiful Autumn with Eunice :
And where would we be without him? Cheers, Woolly!
Nobody can meander quite like Jackie!
Rosemay has been garden wandering. I think you’ll find she’s a wonderful companion :
Susan has many interesting walks in her home city, New York. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one :
And I’m delighted to be joined again by Tobias, where there might be cake!
That’s it for another week! I seem to have tempted the sun out in my part of the world. See you soon!