The most famous green space that started the trend of stately palaces with gardens that would serve as the model of many European courts can be found hidden away behind the grand splendour of former residence-turned-museum of the Medici family, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli gardens. I consider this place to be almost austere, an elegant and almost sober garden stretching the length of Via Romana all the way to the arched Porta Romana. Boboli dates back to the 16th century; the layout set by the Medici family and then tweaked by the Habsburg-Lorraine and Savoy dynasties, each leaving their signature mark on the vast outdoor space.
The vast green space is peppered with large hedges, a kaffeehaus showcasing a superb example of Rococo architecture, a grass amphitheatre with an original Egyptian Obelisk, fountains, and sculptures depicting Roman myths. In the Casino del Cavaliere section lies a lovely, small museum showcasing a fine porcelain collection. You can’t leave without a stop at the impressive grotto grande, divided into three sections and decorated with remarkable examples of Mannerist sculptures, a feat worked on by such illustrious Italian masters, Vasari and Buontalenti.
A place of dreams where roses grow in abundance along a sloping hill on the main walking stretch from San Niccolò to the city’s panoramic perch, Piazzale Michelangelo. Of course, we are talking about the Giardino delle Rose, home to a relaxing green space with over 1,000 botanical varieties of roses and the quirky bronze statues by artist Jean-Michel Folon. Giuseppe Poggi designed the garden in 1865, as part of a larger project offering residents a panoramic view of the city. We especially appreciate the Japanese Shorai corner complete with a bubbling stream, a gift from the City of Kyoto and the Zen Temple of Kodai. You can pack a picnic with delicacies from the city markets, and pass the afternoon away until the sunset approaches.
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You would never know that behind the unassuming façades of Via de' Serragli lies a vast, jaw-dropping green space in the heart of Florence’s historical centre. The Torrigiani gardens cover a vast area of 17 acres, the largest privately-owned garden in Europe, situated entirely within city boundaries. Romantic in style with a delightful bridge over the Ladon river, it contains an extraordinary wealth of tree and plant species from all over the world that will delight anyone with a distinguished green thumb. Today it is still home to the Torrigiani Malaspina and the Torrigiani Santa Cristina families, and private visits with a guide must be arranged in advance. It is also the ideal spot for a luxuriously hidden private event.
Often overshadowed by its more famous sister Boboli, Villa Bardini is often our favourite place for an afternoon of leafy respite on a hill following Costa San Giorgio located on the Oltrarno side of the river. A lovely area on several levels (make sure to look for the Belvedere Terrace for a stunning view of the city) boasting a shady wisteria archway and bordered by hydrangeas, Bardini once belonged to the Mozzi family in the 13th century; over the centuries, the gardens later underwent a total revamp and in the early 1900’s, by antique dealer Stefano Bardini.
Wander down to Borgo Pinti to the Four Seasons Hotel and you will find 11 acres of one of the most magnificent private gardens in the city. Interlaced with paths cutting through lawns and over hills, Giardino Della Gherardesca dates back to the 15th century, and in the 19th century it became renowned for its romantic style, complete with an Ionic Temple. It is home to an evergreen species known as the longest living plant in Europe, the Taxus Baccata. Guests of this luxury hotel will most certainly find serenity in every pristine corner – we suggest a shady respite with a good book under the 100-year-old Thuja tree.
In the luscious hills of Fiesole, an easy-to-reach town with a panoramic view of the city of Florence, exists one of the city’s oldest Renaissance 15th century villas, Villa Medici, with a awe-inspiring view from a green terrace over the horizon. Built by Michelozzo, it was here that Florentine noble Lorenzo il Magnifico once regularly hosted intellectuals, poets and artists. The garden is splayed out onto three different terraces that overlook the Tuscan hills, lined lovingly with lemon trees and geranium-filled terracotta pots. Visits must be made in advance, making this one of Tuscany’s best hidden and worth sought-out secrets.
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