Guide to visiting the Forte di Belvedere in Florence
Forte Belvedere is many things: an extraordinary fortress, an enchanting place, a magnificent viewpoint, a museum and even an aperitif bar. In short, the reasons to go to the Forte di Belvedere in Florence are so many and if you are in the city I can only recommend this visit.
The fortezza di Santa Maria in San Giorgio del Belvedere (this is its official name) is located at the highest point of the Boboli hill, a strategic position that allowed it to perform various functions.
A real architectural jewel, the Forte Belvedere was disegned by Bernardo Buontalenti, one of the greatest architects of the Florentine Renaissance. Its construction dates back to a period between 1590 and 1591.
At that time the Medici had just returned to the city after the last expulsion, and the Grand Duke Ferdinando I wanted to build a second fortress (the other is the Fortezza da Basso), with the main purpose of protecting Palazzo Pitti which was the seat government as well as his private residence. Forte Belvedere was also designed as a refuge for the Grand Duke who, in case of need, could reach it by crossing the Boboli Gardens. The fortress represented the last stage of that journey that connected Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi and Boboli through the Vasari Corridor.
The fortress, however, was not only for the use and consumption of the Grand Duke, but also served to reinforce the defenses of the city and to protect the entire Oltrarno area. In this sense, its location was chosen based on the experience of the siege of Florence in 1530, when the strategic importance of that site was highlighted.
Inspired by the principles of what at the time was called “modern fortification”, Buontalenti endowed the Forte Belvedere with five bastions to which is added a triangular buttress that give life to the characteristic star-shaped plan with a tangled front which for the time was really cutting edge.
Designed by Bartolomeo Ammannati around 1570 and therefore prior to the fortifications, the building in the center of the Fort already at the time represented a real viewpoint over the city. Once the fortress was built, the palace became the command center of the whole complex. Not only that, in its basement, the Medici built a vault, well protected by traps and pitfalls, where they kept the state treasury.
Forte Belvedere, a magnificent panoramic point over Florence
For centuries the Forte Belvedere has carried out its military functions, without however ever having to face attacks or sieges. Thus, already in the eighteenth century the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo opened it to citizens who were finally able to enjoy this magnificent balcony overlooking Florence.
In the 1950s the Forte Belvedere definitively lost its military function and was restored to be converted to the functions it still performs today. At the end of the 90s, after a period of neglect, the fort was subjected to a new restoration project that allowed the complex to be restored to its former glory.
Exhibitions at Forte Belvedere
Today the Forte di Belvedere represents one of the most fascinating exhibitions in the whole city. Over time it has hosted numerous shows and exhibitions that have found here a truly unique location with unmistakable charm. Henry Moore, to whom an exhibition was dedicated in 1972, spent these words on the Fort:
“In fact, there is no place in the world to exhibit sculptures outdoors, in relation to an architecture and a city, better than the Forte di Belvedere, with its imposing surroundings and wonderful views towards Florence”.
Since then, many other exhibitions have taken place at the Forte Belvedere. Between these:
- Dani Karavan – 1978
- Umberto Mastroianni – 1981
- Mario Ceroli – 1983
- Michelangelo Pistoletto – 1984
- Arnaldo Pomodoro – 1986
- L’Idea Ferrari – 1990
- Fernando Botero – 1991
- Mimmo Paladino – 1993
- Belvedere dell’arte “Orizzonti” – 2003
- Jean-Michel Folon – 2005
Up to the most recent:
- Zhang Huan, “L’anima e la materia – Soul and Matter” – 2013
- Giuseppe Penone, “prospettiva vegetale” – 2014
- Antony Gormley, “Human” – 2015
- Jan Fabre, “Spiritual Guards” – 2016
- “YTALIA. Energia Pensiero Bellezza” – 2017
- Eliseo Mattiacci, “Gong” – 2018
- Massimo Listri, “A perfect Day” and Davide Rivalta, “My Land” – 2019
- Rä di Martino, “Play it again” and “FOTOGRAFE!” – 2022
Aperitif in Forte Belvedere
Another great reason to visit the Forte Belvedere in Florence is that here you will find a bar where you can have an aperitif. At the time of writing this article, the Fort remains open until 8 in the evening, a time that allows you to comfortably make your pre-dinner aperitif. The price is not the cheapest (a beer and a Hugo, accompanied by a bowl of chips… 17 euros!) but the location is remarkable and the view is priceless.
Forte Belvedere: timetables, prices and tickets
In 2022 the Forte Belvedere reopened to the public from 18 June to 2 October, from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm. Entrance to the outdoor spaces is free and payment of the ticket is required only to visit the exhibitions that are inside. The full ticket costs 10 euros, the reduced 5.
If desired, the MUS.E Association organizes guided tours that last just under an hour and cost 3 euros (1.50 the reduced ticket); here you will find the link to book the guided tour. For more information on timetables and tickets I also leave you the link to the dedicated page on the website of the Municipality of Florence.
How to reach Forte Belvedere
Forte Belvedere is located on a hill and for some it may be tiring to reach on foot. In any case, coming from Ponte Vecchio or the Lungarno you can reach it on foot in just over 10 minutes along Costa San Giorgio or Costa dei Magnoli. Along the way I also point out the Church of San Giorgio alla Costa, which I recommend you visit if you find it open, the birthplace of Galileo Galilei and one of the entrances to Villa Bardini.
If you don’t want to, or can’t, tackle the climb on foot, you can also reach Forte Belvedere with your car. In fact, around the Fort there are some parking lots even if there are not many places.