There is a lot of history entwined with Boboli. To simplify:
- 15th century: the fields and gardens were laid out by the Borgolo family
- 1418: Luca Pitti bought the property
- Poor Luca literally became Poor Luca. The construction of the property drove him to bankruptcy
- 1549: Cosimo I’s wife, Eleonora di Toledo, saved Luca and the Boboli gardens by purchasing tutto
- The plan was enlarged in order to become the Medici family’s Florence residence. Architects during this time include Niccolo Tribolo, Giorgio Vasari, Bartolomeo Ammannati, and Bernardo Buontalenti, under the reign of Francis I, Cosimo I’s son.
- 17th, 18th, 19th centuries: The Medici and Lorraine families continued to enhance and enlarge the property
Most visitors enter the gardens from the Pitti Palace courtyard. I prefer to enter at the gate closer to Porta Romana, where I have yet to see a line. There is no sudden infiltration of people, and I am immediately drawn into the Medici fairytale that is the Giardino del Boboli.
On the left, half-hidden behind a gate which suggests that this area is for the gardeners, a picturesque outhouse with a Tuscan patina Tuscan-ofiles cherish is fronted with a scattering of terra-cotta pots. The scene is a perfect painting of a typical Tuscan scene.
To the right, a wide, dusty road leads down in the direction of Porta Romana. We go left, past a few renaissance and Roman statues, past staircases hidden beneath the shade of Tuscan vegetation and iron lampposts. I feel quite certain that we have entered another era, a fictional stroll through the High Renaissance where all of the noise, the inconveniences of modern day, the overcrowding of urban life, the garbage, and the stress are lost in the dusty paths, the air cleansed with the surrounding lemons and roses.
Boboli slowly ascends from the perfectly symmetrical Amphitheater, off-centered only by the modern exhibitions of local art. Florentines maintain their spaces, their property, and their public areas with incredible pride. Nothing is out of place; there is no litter to be found. Just as the Medici’s supported the great artists of the Renaissance, Florentines today support local artists as much as they can, with as much grandiosity in the way of promotion as possible. How unimaginable to be a burgeoning artist today, and to have one’s work displayed in the center of Boboli Gardens, within sight of Palazzo Pitti and 400 year-old architecture.
Everyone has their favorite secret corners of the gardens. I enjoy the peaceful field at the top of the first stretch of stairs, with views of Palazzo Pitti and Florence below. This pasture, with its stone benches and leafy trees, is unbelievably quiet and serene. It is the perfect spot for a rest, a book, or a picnic. Continuing on, I feel like I am Eleonora skipping through the hedge-lined maze-like pathways on either side of this grassy patch. I imagine that Cosimo’s wife could find her way with a silk blindfold over her eyes.
Farther east, the Giardino del Cavaliere has a prestigious location at the edge of the city walls, overlooking Florentine villas and Tuscan vegetation. In May, the enclosed garden is fragrant with roses, a marvelous juxtaposition of color with the warm colors of the ever so elegant Ceramics museum and the sea of verde rolling in the east.
A smiling face in Boboli.