All the art and culture of Florence can at times be exhausting. If you are in need of a change of pace but don’t have time to head out to the Tuscan countryside or seaside, there is an alternate solution: seek refuge in one of Florence’s many gardens. The capital of Tuscany is actually full of secret gardens hidden behind high walls. Though most are privately owned, quite a few are open to the public. Here are a few you can explore on a hot summer day.
Right in the center of Florence, at only a short 7 minute walk from the central train station, live the magnificent Corsini Gardens. Only someone in the know can find them since all a person can see at street level are walls with a bit of greenery peeking over them.
The Corsini family bought the pre-existing lodge and garden and had them revamped by their architect Gherardo Silvani. Giardino Corsini is a great example of Italian style garden with its box hedges and lemon trees. The fact that the garden is surrounded by three orangeries is a clear indicator of the Renaissance obsession with citrus trees! In order to draw the visitors eye to the lodge, Silvani had the pillars of the statues lining the main gravel path gradually reduced in size in order to increase the effect of perspective. A colony of around 100 turtles lives on the grounds so don’t be surprised if you see one poking around.
Giardino Corsini is privately owned and doesn’t open to the public often. A few big events like the Artigianato e Palazzo fair or the Firenze Flower Show are organised every year and are a great opportunity to enter the gardens. Giardino Corsini can be rented out for private or company events.
Parco di villa Demidoff
The Parco Mediceo di Pratolino is about 10 kms away from the Florence city centre. Head uphill on Via Bolognese out of the city in the direction of Montorsoli and eventually Pratolino.
The park was originally one of the biggest Medici villas and gardens but sadly, the villa was torn to the ground. Some traces of the Renaissance period, such as the massive statue of the Colossus of the Apennines, the two grottos, fishpond and aviary still remain around the park. The park passed from the Medici to the Lorena and was then eventually sold to a Russian prince Pavel Demidoff. The park is sometimes referred to as Villa Demidoff in Pratolino. Parco Pratolino is a natural reserve for flora and fauna and boasts centuries-old oaks, cedars and conker trees.
Due to restoration works, visitors can’t go everywhere in the park. Some areas such as the fountain of Jupiter or the Neoclassical lodge of Montili can only be seen upon request and with a guide. The park only opens from Easter Sunday to the end of October. Make sure to contact the park before heading there to check opening times (they tend to vary) and book a tour.
Giardino di Boboli
The Boboli Gardens are located just behind the Pitti Palace in the historical centre of Florence. The easiest way to reach them is the cross the Ponte Vecchio and follow the road that leads straight to the Palace. There are also secondary entrances (from the adjacent Bardini Gardens and in Porta Romana) but they aren’t always open.
The Gardens, originally designed for the Medici family, first opened to the public in 1766. It is the first and foremost example of the giardino all’Italiana style and inspired many courts around Europe. Boboli is much more than a natural haven though, it can be considered an open air museum because the grounds are so full of sculptures and architectural gems such as Buontalenti’s grotto in the Northern part of the garden.
The Habsburg-Lorraine family took over the Boboli gardens and expanded them to their current size. The kaffeehaus, where the court enjoyed a hot chocolate after a walk, and the Orangerie that still houses the 500 citrus trees of the gardens are some of the 18th century Habsburg-Lorraine additions.
The Gardens are quite expansive so make sure to set aside enough time to enjoy them, especially if you choose to also visit the adjoining Pitti Palace. There is a special Passepartout ticket that allows visitors to see the Uffizi, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens over the span of 3 days for 18 euros. During the high season, pay an extra 3 euros and buy your tickets online. They must still be picked up at the ticket office of Palazzo Pitti but you will save yourself a long wait under the sun. Entrance to the Gardens is 6 euros and the last admission is one hour before closing.
These gardens are located on Via Bolognese 17, not far from Piazza della Libertà.
In the mid 19th century, the Tuscan Horticultural Society was founded and needed a place to grow an experimental garden. The Giardino dell’Orticoltura opened its doors in 1862, as an exhibition space to showcase exotic and rare plants. In 1880, the glass greenhouse was added and dubbed the ‘Glass Palace’.
The gardens have now become a cultural space where locals and tourists can meet. The Giardino Artecultura Association organises events for people of all ages that range from storytelling to yoga lessons, concerts to workshops or even markets. Relax under the greenery and have a drink or some food at the café.
The Giardino dell’Orticoltura opens from 8 am to 8 pm. On nights with special events, closing time is extended to midnight. Events are organised from May to September. Make sure to check the calendar to decide what event suits you best!