Boboli Gardens: an open-air museum
The Boboli Gardens is one of the most important examples of an Italian Renaissance garden. Equipped with a conspicuous botanical and architectural heritage, the Boboli Gardens is to be considered as a real open-air museum. A garden rich in history able to enchant visitors, thanks to the spectacular perspective sequences created by the architects who designed and built it. The park, proclaimed Unesco Heritage in June 2013, covers an area of approximately 45,000 m². Strolling in the garden, you will come across magnificent tree-lined avenues, gardens, lawns, squares, statues and fountains.
Why is it called Boboli?
Many wonder what the meaning of Boboli is. The origin of the name of the garden is not certain, but there are some hypotheses. The most accredited is that the name Boboli would be the contraction of the surname of the Borgolo family. This family once had numerous possessions in the Florentine Oltrarno, an area that in the past was called “Borgo”. Another hypothesis traces the origin of the name to the Latin term Bubulus, others still refer to Etruscan terms or to Lombard name.
The history of the garden
The garden as we see it now is the result of numerous interventions that have taken place since its creation in the sixteenth century until the nineteenth century. Boboli was born in the mid-sixteenth century when it took the place of previous agricultural spaces located behind Palazzo Pitti and along via Romana up to the city gate. The initial project was entrusted by Cosimo I de’ Medici to Niccolò Pericoli known as il Tribolo. Subsequently, other great characters took turns in the creation of the park. Among these we find Vasari, Ammannati, Giambologna and Buontalenti.
Guide to the Boboli Gardens in Florence
The park has various entrances, the main one is through Palazzo Pitti. Boboli Gardens is accessed by passing the internal courtyard of the building (Ammannati courtyard) which is positioned just behind the main entrance. The duration of the visit to the gardens is at least 2 or 3 hours, however, on the most beautiful days, many decide (rightly!) to enjoy the park even longer.
What to see in the Boboli Gardens
One of the peculiarities of the garden are its caves. The most famous of all is the famous Buontalenti Grotto which is on the left once you enter the park. Commissioned by Grand Duke Francesco I de’ Medici, the cave was built between 1583 and 1593. The cave is a masterpiece of Mannerist architecture, sculpture and painting. It is a very particular work and from the outside it surprises with its bizarre decorations inspired by sponges. Even inside, in the three rooms that make up the cave, this type of decoration is repeated, made up of concretions, stalactites and rocks.
The Buontalenti cave is not just architecture. In the first room you can admire the four Prisons by Michelangelo (now replaced by copies, the originals are in the Accademia) and the frescoes by Bernardino Poccetti. The center of the second room is occupied by the marble group Paris who kidnaps Elena by Vincenzo de’ Rossi and on the walls are painted Juno and Minerva. The third and last room preserves a delightful Venus coming out of the bath made by Giambologna.
This cave is full of meanings. One of the main themes is that of shapeless matter that finds order and harmony. It is a theme linked to alchemy of which Francesco I was very passionate. The decorations of the fountain by Giambologna instead refer to an erotic theme.
A second cave, the Grotticina di Madama, is located further ahead on this side of the garden.
First part of the park
The first part of the park, dominated by the Forte Belvedere, is all around the Amphitheatre and the Fountain of Neptune. In the eastern part you can find the elegant Kaffeehaus, built between 1774 and 1775. After the Neptune, there are the Giardino del Cavaliere (knight’s garden) and the Casino del Cavaliere (the knight’s house, where is the Museum of porcelain).
Amphitheater of the Boboli Gardens
Boboli hill had been used as a stone quarry since the Middle Ages. It was Tribolo who came up with the idea of transforming the quarry into an orderly space. The first project, carried out in the mid-sixteenth century, included the Ocean Fountain which today is located in the center of the Boboli islet. The current Amphitheater is the result of the restructuring carried out in the seventeenth century and some eighteenth-century modifications. In particular, the Egyptian obelisk that stands out in the center was installed in 1790, while the large Roman basin arrived in 1840. Along the steps there are several statues of various origins.
The second part of the garden is cut lengthwise by the Viottolone (Cyprus Road), a wide tree-lined avenue that leads us through a descent towards the final part of the park. At the end of the Viottolone you reach the Vasca dell’Isola (Isola basin); a large oval basin with an island in the center that can be reached via two passages. A little further on, in the area closest to Porta Romana, there is the Prato delle Colonne. The Viottolone is enriched by numerous statues, both from the ancient and the eighteenth century. By deviating on the transverse avenues you reach other points of interest such as the Fontana dei Mostaccini and the Giardino della Botanica superiore (Botanical Garden).
On the side closest to via Romana we find two interesting structures: the Limonaia (lemon house) and the Palazzina della Meridiana, which is currently the seat of the Galleria del Costume (Museum of costume). The Limonaia was built around 1778 during a general reorganization of the garden commissioned by the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. The building was created to carry on the custom, introduced by the Medici, of cultivating citrus fruits in the gardens. This type of plant could not be grown in Tuscany because it does not withstand the cold of winter, which is why citrus fruits were considered almost like exotic fruits. The rarity of certain plants in Tuscany combined with their beauty, triggered a mania for collecting that could only be satisfied by having adequate spaces to guarantee the necessary heat for their growth. This is how the so-called “limonaie” were born.
Entrance to the Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens has 4 entrances, located in points that are distant from each other.
The main entrance is in Piazza Pitti, that is, passing through the entrance of Palazzo Pitti. In addition to the entrance of the palace, you can enter the garden via Forte Belvedere, from the Annalena entrance located in Via Romana 37/a and from the Piazzale di Porta Romana.
How to get to the Boboli Gardens
The area where Boboli is located is not at all convenient to reach by car, both because it is subject to traffic restrictions and for the difficulty in finding a place to park. One of the closest car parks is located near Porta Romana, but if you want to enter the ZTL of Florence (limited traffic area) you should look for a garage where you can leave your car in order to register your license plate and not get fines.
As for public transport, the bus lines that arrive in the area are 11 and D; both lines pass through the Central Station.
In any case, if you are already in the center of Florence, the best and most pleasant way to reach Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens is always a nice walk!
Regulation of the Boboli Gardens
In order to preserve the park, a regulation has been introduced that governs the behavior of visitors. Among other things, it is forbidden to bring dogs and other animals, play with the ball or introduce means of transportation such as bicycles, skateboards etc.
If you have children, take them to visit Boboli, but always keep them under control, remember that it is not a garden like any other!
Opening hours of the Boboli Gardens
The garden is open every day from Monday to Sunday.
Opening hours vary throughout the year:
January-February and November-December: 8.15am – 4.30pm
March-May and September-October: 8.15am – 6.30pm
June-August: 8.15am – 7.00pm
The garden is closed on the first and last Monday of the month (except in the summer when it never closes), January 1st and December 25th.
Tickets for the Boboli Gardens
The ticket also includes admission to the Museum of porcelain and the garden of Villa Bardini.
Cost of tickets
Ticket prices are as follows: 6 euros for the full ticket, 2 euros for the reduced one.
There is also a ticket that allows access to the Boboli park for an internal year and a cumulative ticket, lasting 5 days, which also guarantees access to the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti.
The ticket is free for residents of the Municipality of Florence, who can take advantage of the free entrance to the garden using the entrance from the Palazzina di Annalena in Via Romana and the one on the Piazzale di Porta Romana (temporarily closed in 2021).
Booking Boboli Gardens
If you want to avoid queues, which are very likely especially in high season, you can book the ticket at a cost of 3 euros.
For more information on timetables, tickets and reservations I recommend you look on the official website.