The Italian Renaissance spawned not just fabulous art and architecture but gardens as well. Green spaces arranged in tightly ordered symmetry - embellished with sparking fountains, grottos and statuary - came into fashion during the 15th century fueled by descriptions of gardens once attached to ancient Greek and Roman villas, and with some exotic Arab influences tossed in as well. The Medici were especially influential in the 16th-century movement, extending an image of wealth, power and cultivation beyond the interiors of opulent palazzos to the enormous expanses around them. The same distinguished artisans commissioned to decorate the churches and piazzas of Florence were employed to further enhance that image with sculpted heraldic, allegorical and mythical representations for carefully designed nooks and crannies.
The Boboli Gardens were designed for Cosimo I de' Medici and his Spanish wife, Eleonora de Toledo, when they bought Palazzo Pitti in1549, and were enlarged over successive centuries. They are a welcome breath of fresh air after hours inside the over-the-top galleries of the palace itself but don’t expect masses of flowers: gardens from this era were focused on shrubs and clipped hedges, trees, lawns and water features. You may find the rose gardens in bloom at Casino del Cavaliere (which houses the Porcelain Museum) at the top of a long, long climb up the hill rising behind the palace: well worth it for some nice overlooks of Florence and Tuscan countryside. Otherwise, just enjoy a walkabout to rest your eyes before heading off to another round of churches and museums.
Good things to know:
• To stress again, these are not the definition of gardens that many tourists expect so if florals are your thing, you’ll probably find those of the Pitti sort of, er, pitiful?
• This is also not a good choice for persons with mobility issues: lots of steps and uphill slopes involved
• Please note the ticket structure on the website carefully as the gardens are not included with those ONLY for the Palatine/Royal Apartments/Modern Art Gallery combo.
• Entrance is covered under the Firenze Card and Friends of the Uffizi Pass
• Find a map here
• Closed on the 1st and the last Monday of each month, New Year's Day, May 1st and Christmas Day. See the website for hours as they vary during different seasons.
This place had me cross-eyed after a couple of hours.
The largest museum complex in Florence, Palazzo Pitti comprises at least five different galleries and two gardens. All of them are either in or around a sprawling, 15th-century palace built by Florentine banker Luca Pitti, and occupied successively and for varying lengths of time by members of the Medici dynasty (who doubled the size), the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Napoleon, and Italian king Victor Emmanuel II.
It has an interesting little connection with Luxembourg Palace in Paris in that Marie de Médicis, second wife of Henri IV and mother of Louis XIII, ordered the design of her French residence to follow that of her birthplace in Florence.
At the core of the complex are the Palatine Gallery and Royal Apartments: 28 and 14 rooms, respectively, in opposing wings of the palace. Palatine is a visual assault of floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall paintings in lavishly decorated spaces, some with original Cortona frescoes. Largely amassed by the Medici family, it’s a vast collection including masterworks by Titian, Caravaggio, Raphael (his “Madonna of the Chair" is lovely), Lippi, Rubens, Murillo and others. They’re arranged higgledy-piggledy instead of grouped by style, artist or era so, yep, great bunch of stuff but we crawled out of Room 28 seriously shell-shocked with the apartments and four more galleries still to go.
Royal Apartments: a quick walk through more art and fancy-schmacy furniture
Costume Gallery: a gentle jog by glass cases of funny old clothes
Silver Museum: a fast trot ‘cause all I could think about was having to polish all that hardware
Modern Art Gallery: a dead run towards the nearest exit
At this point we staggered off to the Boboli Gardens and a clutter-free, gilt-free dose of green which I’ll cover in a separate review. In a nutshell? It’s well worth the ticket if you’re an art lover; just don’t try and do the entire complex in one day.
Good things to know:
• I'm reading that many tourists find the ticketing structure confusing so to clarify:
a. Ticket option #1 covers the Royal Apartments, Palatine and Modern Art Galleries but not the gardens or other galleries
b. Ticket option #2 covers Silver, Porcelain and Costume Galleries, Boboli and Bardini Gardens but not the apartments, Palatine or Modern Art Galleries
c. Ticket Option #3 covers the whole shootin’ match EXCEPT during special exhibits
d. Firenze Cards or Friends of the Uffizi Passes cover entrance fees to all of the museums/gardens
The Carriage Museum is currently closed so ticket structure may change again when its re-opened.
• The price of tickets may change depending on special exhibits
• Hours and closure days vary per museum/gallery so check the website info for each of them when planning your visit
• Most of the galleries are handicapped accessible with just a few areas which are not: see the website
• The palace has a cafe, bookshop and restrooms
• Umbrellas, large bags and backpacks must be checked (free)
• Photography/filming is NOT allowed in the museums but is OK in the gardens
The website can be a bit of a pain to navigate as you’ll need to re-click the UK flag (upper right corner) for English with nearly every page change.
The Palazzo Pitti was originally the home of the Pitti family, who were wealthy bankers in Florence. It was sold to Eleanor of Toledo, wife of Grand Duke Cosimo I Medici, in 1550 and became the home of the ruling family. Today is houses a huge art collection and hosts special exhibitions. In nice weather, the attached Boboli Gardens are a pleasure to stroll through. There is a private walkway, the Vasari Corridor which was created by Vasari for the Medici family to get from the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi (when they were government office buildings) to their home at the Palazzo Pitti.
We went to the Palazzo Pitti to see a special exhibition that had some Renaissance works on display, such as Verrocchio’s David and Botticelli’s Athena & Centaur, both of which were removed from the Bargello museum for this exhibit.
NOTE: If you have specific art works that you want to see, always check with the museums to see if they have been removed for a special exhibit somewhere else. During my stay, I had to visit two additional museums to see some of the pieces being studied.
After touring the special exhibit, we toured the primary art gallery of the museum (The Palazzo Pitti houses several different museums and galleries, including the Boboli gardens house the Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, the Porcelain Museum and the Museum of Carriages.
The gallery appeared to be a jumbled mix of works with no real reasoning behind the placement of the art, except maybe that the frame would fit in the spot. Artists were spread around in different rooms, as well as time periods. Some completely stood out as seemingly out of place (like an official portrait of England’s Queen Elizabeth I). There is also period furniture on display and unique things such as Napoleon’s bathtub.
From the upstairs windows you get a nice view of the Boboli Gardens, said to have been done in a Mannerist style by a student of Michelangelo.
The museum does not allow backpacks to be taken into the gallery – they have a bag check near the entrance. The bathrooms are located on the lower level near the bag check. Also near the entrance is a café.
While the museum was interesting, had the Renaissance pieces we came to see not been there, I probably would not go again to visit the Palazzo Pitti, except to wander the gardens on a nice day.
As we were walking back from the Palazzo Pitti, I was reminded of my first trip to Florence. Hubby and I had gotten some gelato nearby and took a peaceful walk away from the crowds. First, let’s find that gelato!
The Boboli Gardens is a park, that is home to a collection of sculptures dating from the 16th through the 18th centuries, with some Roman antiquities.
The Gardens, behind the Pitti Palace, the main seat of the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany, are some of the first and most familiar formal 16th century Italian gardens. The mid-16th century garden style, as it was developed here, incorporated longer axial developments, wide gravel avenues, a considerable "built" element of stone, the lavish employment of statuary and fountains, and a proliferation of detail, coordinated in semi-private and public spaces that were informed by classical accents: grottos, nympheums, garden temples and the like.
You can watch my 3 min 35 sec Video Florence Pitti and Boboli out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
The Palazzo Pitti is a vast mainly Renaissance palace. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio. The core of the present palazzo dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker.
The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It grew as a great treasure house as later generations amassed paintings, plates, jewelry and luxurious possessions.
Full euro 8,50
Reduced euro 4,25
includes entrance to Gallery of Modern Art
Ticket office accepts only cash payments
Open from 8.15 a.m. to 6.50 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Days of closure
Closed Mondays, January 1, May 1, and December 25
The Royal Apartments closed every January for maintenance
Built in 1548 by the Pitti palace, it was taken over by the Medici family in 1549 when they became the Dukes of tuscany. The palace today is divided into series of museums the best of which is the Palatine gallery and Royal Apartments.
My friend was very keen to visit these, so that is why we went.
Laid out from roughly 1550 onwards, initially for Eleonora di Toledo (a Medici wife) they were some of the first formal gardens in Italy. There are shady walks and fountains and pools and grottoes and statues...but very little, we found, in the way of flowers. This was a little surprising in late April.
We enjoyed our wanderings, although I had not realised the gardens would be quite as hilly as they are (a bit of an effort on a hot day, to be honest). There are, at present, also some enclosed reconstructions of Pompeii gardens but these seemed to be very neglected; a great pity, as the contrast between these and formal 16th century gardens is interesting.
To be perfectly honest, I felt the gardens were a bit of a disappointment. I had hoped for more water features (perhaps they are not turned on until after Easter?) and more in the way of flowers so early in the year. But the shady walks, the grottoes and the sculptures were interesting to explore...and you do get some excellent views of both the city and the hills behind.
The Boboli Gardens lie behind the Pitti Palace, and you have to pay to enter them (unless you are a Florence resident). Entrance is either with with your Pitti Palace museum ticket or with a less pricey ticket which includes the Museum of Porcelain and the Barberini Gardens.
The queue at the Pitti Palace ticket office was huge (it has been every time I've visited Florence), so we took the advice of my guidebook and walked about 300m further up Via Romana, where the queue for the ticket office at the Boboli entrance was much, much shorter.
No doubt one of the more beautiful and wonderful garden in Italy. The garden area is behind the main palace complex and stretches for maybe 2 miles in circular pathes. It has numerous statuary interspersed and a lot of pools, side gardens, and hidden walk paths. There is a Silver Museum, which holds a lot of silver pieces inside the palace that is in 25 rooms. There also is a Porcelain Museum showing many delicate pieces of eating wares, like plates, serving dishes, and many other valuable and beautiful items, some from Meissen, dating back to late 1700's. It is housed in a lovely building called Casino Caviliere, which was a haunt for wealth to wander and enjoy. It is form the 17th century. Cost to the gardens and both museums is Euro 8. The view form the top shows the hills surrounding the Florence city, a great view of the city, and Medici Palace crested on top of a hill.
When Cosimo I de Medici and his wife Eleonora acquired Palazzo Pitti, they immediately laid out plans to build a somptuous royal garden at the back of their new residence. Even though they're not as big as, say, the ones at Versailles, the Boboli Gardens remain one of the best examples of Italian-style gardens, where trimmed hedges compete with wilderness in a beautifully organized ensemble, punctuated with numerous statues and fountains. From the Palazzo Pitti, the gardens rise up a small hill, so it's also possible to enjoy great views of the city. Speaking of great views, our ticket to the Boboli Gardens also included access to the smaller Giardino Bardini, from where you get an even better view of the city. From what little information I could gather, Giardino Bardini once belonged to Stefano Bardini, a 19th century art collector and restorer, who would use the garden to showcase some of the pieces in his collection. After his death, the garden was abandoned throughout most of the 20th century, and it has just recently been retored and opened to the public.
I'd say it takes at least a couple of hours to walk around both gardens, and you'll need even more time if you plan on visiting some of the museums. There is a combined ticket available for the Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti's silver, costume and porcelaine museums for 10 Euros.
For some reason, Palazzo Pitti doesn't seem to be quite as popular as the museums located on the other side of the Arno River, but if someone were to ask me what to do with only one day in Florence, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a visit to the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens. Construction of the palazzo began in 1457. It was built for Luca Pitti, a rich banker who wanted his new home to be bigger and more luxurious than the newly built Palazzo Medici. Unfortunately, Pitti suffered substantial financial losses just a few years after work had begun, and he died before the palace was completed. Ironically, it was the Medici family who bought Palazzo Pitti in 1549 and they saw to it that the palazzo be competed so it could become the new residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. In 1919, the King of Italy decided to give Palazzo Pitti to the nation so that it could be turned into a museum. A total of 140 rooms are now divided into 5 different galeries: the Palatine Gallery, the Royal Appartments, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery and the Silver Museum.
The palazzo doesn't necessarily look like much from the outside. The architecture is somewhat simple and austere, almost like that of an office building. However, once you get inside, things are quite different. The 14 rooms that make up the Royal Appartments are beautiful, and the Galleria Palatina presents a collection of over 1000 Renaissance paintings that belonged to the Royal Family, including some great ones by Raphael (look for "Madonna della seggiola" and "La donna velata"), Botticelli, Rubens, Caravaggio and Andrea del Sarto, just to name a few. In each room there is information available in English describing the different works of art and providing historical information about the rooms themselves (for who would not want to see Napoleon's bathroom?!). Finally, although we didn't spend as much time in it, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna was also worth a visit. This museum specializes in Tuscan art from 1794 to 1924 and I thought it was interesting to see how Italian painters were gradually influenced by other European schools after having led the world of art for so long.
There's a combined ticket available for the Galleria Palatina, Royal Appartments and Gallery of Modern Art (12 Euros) - and there's almost no line-up! - but it doesn't give access to the Boboli Gardens.
Luca Pitti commissioned the famed architect Brunelleschi to design this great palace in the 15th century. The wealthy and powerful Medici family bought it and had another architect, Ammannati, enlarge it. He also designed the courtyard. The interior is a collection of museums, including the Palatine Gallery, Silver Museum, Costume Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Carriages.
Outside, behind the palace, are the Boboli Gardens. These landscaped gardens rate second only to those of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli in their beauty. Incidentally, this palace and its gardens served as the inspiration for the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris. One of the Medicis had married into the French royal family.
The Pitti Palace, is a vast mainly Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, walking distance from the Ponte Vecchio. The core of the present palazzo dates from 1458 and was originally the town residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker. The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It grew as a great treasure house as later generations amassed paintings, plates, jewelry and luxurious possessions.
In the late 18th century, the palazzo was used as a power base by Napoleon, and later served for a brief period as the principal royal palace of the newly united Italy. The palace and its contents were donated to the Italian people by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1919, and then opened to the public as one of Florence's largest art galleries. Today, it houses several minor collections in addition to those of the Medici family, and is fully open to the public.
We visited the Royal Apartments a suite of 14 rooms, formerly used by the Medici family, and lived in by their successors. The rooms have been largely altered since the era of the Medici, most recently in the 19th century. They contain a collection of Medici portraits, many of them by the artist Giusto Sustermans. Furnishings from the period include four-poster beds and objects not found elsewhere in the palazzo. The Kings of Italy last used the Palazzo Pitti in the 1920s. By that time it had already been converted to a museum.
The Boboli Gardens form a famous park in Florence that is home to a distinguished collection of sculptures dating from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, with some Roman antiquities. The views of Florence from the Gardens were spectacular.
When on vacation we try to find a spot in the city away from it all. Boboli Gardens provided that peace and quiet that we craved away from the crowds and the overpriced tourist shops. We paid 10 Euros each to enter the property and spent several hours walking around breathing the fresh air and taking in the view of Florence. If we would have thought ahead we would have brought a picnic lunch and spread out on the lawn. There are several statues and picture perfect areas throughout the gardens. We also went into the museum but weren't that impressed. We must have climbed 200 stairs and had limited access to the rooms. However, be warned, bring your own water as we couldn't find a water fountain anywhere. On a positive note, bathrooms are clean and free, located in the gardens and in the museum itself.
The gardens are also home to a number of other Renaissance or Seventeenth Century attractions. These include the Grotta del Buontalenti by Bernardo Buontalenti installed at the end of the 16th century. One could classify the two grottos as a 'folly' or ornament of pure enjoyment with no other purpose than the amusement of its viewers (very popular from the Renaissance to the Nineteenth Century with people of wealth). Amongst the stalagmites and stalactites, one can find mannerist style figures of descreet lovers and cheeky shepherds.
The visitor can also find the grotesque statue of the Bacchino made in 1560 by Valerio Cioli da Settignano. It is a satyrical version of the most famous dwarf of the Medici Court, Pietro Barbino.
One can also not help but enjoy the numerous views of Florence the Boboli Gardens offer. Enjoy!
Whilst the gardens were laid out for Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de Medici at the end of the 16th century, the garden, which eventually reached a size of 45 hectares (111 acres), spread westward.
Following a tree-lined and statue-clad allee (an allee is feature of the French formal garden that was both a promenade and an extension of the view; it often ended in a terminal feature, such as the Piazzolo dell'Isolotto) I arrived upon to what I consider to be one of the most enchanting spots of Florence: the Piazzolo dell'Isolotto.
Constructed by Guilo and Alfonso Parigi in 1618, this lovely place first greets you with a fountain of the mythical Triton. As you enter this corner of the Boboli, you immediately see the moated emerald green Pond of Isolotto where one can see the dramatic stone images of Pereus and Andromeda.
In the centre of the pond is the Island of Isolotto, planted with lemon trees and flowers all of which serve as a sprawling pedistal of Giovanni da Bologna's magnificent Ocean Fountain crowned by the statue of Oceanus.
I truely love this spot and whereas some of the gardens, especially in the midst of the summer are hot and full of people, this corner of the garden is like a little paradise where one can easily spend a good hour relaxing, reading, chatting, thinking, resting...
This spot alone was worth the entrance fee I paid to get into the garden.