Central Florence’s only park is a charming green oasis.
The Boboli Gardens is the only green space of any size in central Florence and it is a wonderful, cool oasis on a hot summer’s day. Even in the height of the season when the streets are blocked with tourists, there is always refuge from the crowds if you leave the main route round the gardens and explore the warren of smaller lanes and pathways. It is a delightful place, well-maintained yet un-stuffy, grand yet accessible where elaborate fountains, extraordinary grottoes, elegant buildings and formal gardens rub happily along with lichen-covered statues, secret shady glades, hidden paths and the indigenous cat population. It’s also only 50 metres from my front door and, armed with my resident’s pass, I often slip in for a walk.
The gardens, which stretch up the hill to Forte Belvedere, were laid out for Cosimo I de’Medici in the early 1500s and opened to the public in 1766. As you wander around, look out for the amphitheatre where the Medici staged their elaborate spectacles; the charming, walled Giardino del Cavaliere at the top of the gardens from where the rural views are superb; the majestic, wide Viottolone; and the splendid Isolotto with its Oceanus fountain. On your way to the exit, you pass Buontalenti’s magnificent and fantastical Grotta Grande and the Bacchus Fountain, a comic sculpture of Cosimo I’s pot-bellied dwarf riding a turtle.