I had the chance to go to the Boboli Gardens and Pitti Palace in Florence with my mom one year. My dad and his friend wanted to go to see David at the Accademia, but since we had been before, it was time for something new. Early one morning, we woke up and crossed the Ponte Vecchio, heading to the south side of the River Arno, toward the Pitti Palace. It was late summer. The days had been hot, but we were early enough enjoy the cool stillness of the morning.
After a lovely walk, we got to the palace and did a quick tour of the Costume Gallery inside and then walked out to the gardens.
The Pitti Palace takes its name from its first owner, a Florentine banker named Luca Pitti. Pitti built the original residence in 1458. The Medicis bought it in 1549 and expanded it, making it the residence for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Cosimo I de' Medici's wife, Eleonora di Toledo originally employed landscape architect Niccolò Tribolo to design the gardens, but he soon died and Bartolomeo Ammanati took over.
The thing that I loved the most about the Boboli Gardens is that they feel like a calming balance of natural and manicured. It was a relief to be able to walk aimlessly and just enjoy the space without feeling the pressing hoards of tourists that normally take over Florence in the summer. It seemed like we and just a handful of others discovered a secret.
It was fun to stumble on the really interesting variety of statues, sculptures, ponds, and fountains that are tucked away on the paths.
We were lucky and spotted this guy from afar.
Since the gardens are on a large hillside, once we got up to the top and turned around, we had a spectacular view of both Florence and the surrounding countryside.
There's also a tiny, but nice, porcelain museum at the top. But I was more enamored of the smaller garden and the amazing panorama.
How can you not love Tuscany?!
Before we left, we stopped by the uniquely beautiful Grotta di Buontalenti.
Before we left, I fell in love with this statue of what is apparently supposed to be Bacchus on a turtle. I don't know why he's on a turtle, but Bacchus partied hard so I also don't think it would be necessarily out of character for him. Cosimo I's "court dwarf" (there has to be a better way of saying that), Braccio di Bartolo, who usually went by the name Morgante, served as the model.
For more information about the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, including up-to-date hours of operation and ticketing, please visit the official website.