a walk through the Oltrarno
It’s springtime! Finally! We’ve been waiting for so long!
This winter seemed endless, it was cold and even snowy, and we were waiting for the spring more than ever. Finally, here it is, with its colours and scents!
Spring is the best time for walks and hikes and with the sunny weather one can enjoy the Florentine parks and gardens. Florence is a city of gardens. Some of them are widely known, such as the magnificent Boboli Gardens, some others are off the beaten path. The Oltrarno area is particularly reach in parks and gardens because on the South Florence is surrounded by hills and the city did not develop in that direction. The hills surrounding Florence are our refuge, place where we go for a walk on Sunday just to relax and to enjoy a beautiful view on the city.
If after a morning visit to a museum you want to relax, enjoy the nature and take a break you can visit one of these splendid gardens:
The Boboli Garden
The magnificent Boboli Gardens are part of the Pitti Palace complex, which was the main residence of the Medici, Gran Dukes of Tuscany. When Eleonora di Toledo, wife of Cosimo I, bought the palace with a small portion of garden behind it, she first used it as fruit and vegetable garden, which provided the Medici with fresh produce every year.
Soon, together with the projects of the enlargement of the Pitti Palace, also the garden underwent profound modifications. The first architect responsible for this first amplification of the Boboli was Niccolò dei Pericoli called Tribolo. He designed the amphitheatre located directly behind the main courtyard of the palace and created the first prospective axis of the garden, which runs from North-West to South-East.
After Tribolo’s death, the project of the creation of monumental Italian garden was continued by Bartolomeo Ammannati and Bernardo Buonatalenti. However, it was Cosimo II, Grand Duke between 1609 and 1621, together with his favourite architects Giulio and Alfonso Parigi, who further enlarged the Boboli and created the second axis of the gardens, in direction of the Roman Gate, the so-called Viottolone.
The Boboli has always been the Dukes’ monumental and representative gardens, but at the same time they fulfilled many practical functions. It is here where the Dukes located the ghiacciaie – the ice-houses, where they kept the ice and stored up the food supplies. The gardens are therefore linked also with the local gastronomic tradition and with the invention of the cream ice-cream attributed to Bernardo Buonatalenti (here you will find my article on Florence and the ice-cream).
A walk through the Boboli Gardens is undoubtedly a perfect idea for your afternoon in Florence.
The Boboli Gardens are open from Tuesday to Sunday.
April, May, September and October 8:15-18:30
During the high season, from 01/03 to 31/10 the ticket costs 10 euro, during the winter, from 1/11 to 28/02 it costs 6 euro.
The Bardini Garden is yet another of the gardens situated in the Oltrarno area, on the hills that protect the city from the South. It occupies the so-called Montecuccoli hill, which since the Middle Ages belonged to the Mozzi family. In 1913 the Mozzi’s property, together with the adjacent villa Manadora, were bought by the Florentine art dealer Stefano Bardini. Bardini reshaped the garden and united the existing housings creating the Villa.
April is the best month to visit the garden because this is when you will find the beautiful wisteria in blossom. The view is truly unique and unforgettable.
April, May, September and October 8:15-18:30
The Villa Bardini and the Garden are closed every first and last Monday of the month, on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December.
The ticket office closes 1 hour before the closure time.
The ticket costs 8 euro but if you visit the Boboli Garden the entrance to the Bardini Garden is included.
Here is the website of the Villa Bardini.
Giardino delle Rose
The Rose Garden is one of my favourite gardens in the city. Just like the Boboli and the Bardini Garden, it is also situated in the Oltrarno, between the San Niccolò area and the Piazzale Michelangelo.
The garden was commissioned to Giuseppe Poggi by the Florentine municipality in 1865. In the Garden we can admire a beautiful collection of rose bushes. Today, the complex includes also a Japanese garden with a Shorai oasis. Moreover, during your visit, you can admire ten sculptures by a Belgian sculptor Jean-Michel Folon.
The garden is open everyday from 9 am until dusk and the entrance is free.
The Iris Garden belongs to the Italian Iris Society (Società Italiana dell’Iris) established in Florence in 1959. It is located in Viale Michelangelo 82, just below the famous Piazzale Michelangelo.
The iris flowers are particularly important in Florence because the “giglio” presented on the Florentine coat of arms represents this flower. During the Middle Ages, until the victory of the Guelf party, the Florentine giglio was a white iris painted on a red background. In 1266, after the victory of the Guelfs, the new government decided to invert the colours of the coat of arm. From now on it represents a red giglio on a white background.
Unfortunately, in nature red iris does not exist and therefore the Italian Iris Society every year promotes a competition for the iris growers. They look for a new variety of iris whose colour resembles the Florentine red giglio.
This year the competition will be held from 7 to 12 May.
The garden opens for the public only between 25 April and 20 May but during the rest of the year you can book your private visit.
Monday-Friday 10:00-13:00 / 15:00-19:30
Saturday and Sunday 10:00-19:30
The entrance is free.
Giardino di Villa Strozzi
In the Western corner of the city, already outside the wall of the Oltrarno, you will find the Garden of the Villa Strozzi. The garden and the villa were built in the sixteenth century by Giovan Battista di Lorenzo Strozzi. At that time, the park around the villa kept a rather wild character but the commissioner enriched it with numerous fountains and streams.
During the nineteenth century another member of the family, Ferdinando Strozzi, commissioned Giuseppe Poggi to restore the villa and the surrounding park. Poggi projected a new entrance alley for the carriages and a beautiful architectonic structure to host a limonaia (lemon garden).
This park is definitely off the beaten touristic paths and a walk through it really relaxing. The park is calm and quiet and if you continue on via Monte Oliveto you will be surprised by some beautiful views on Florence.
The entrance to the park is free.
Enjoy your walks through the gardens in the Oltrarno!