On Sunday mornings in Florence, the City is quiet for tourists, especially during the off-season in February. Churches and shops are closed; however, most museums and public gardens are open.
In the Oltrarno (translation: “beyond Arno”) a few blocks across the Ponte Vecchio are spectacular gardens behind the Pitti Palace. Since the 1500s, the Boboli Gardens, which were designed by Niccolo Pericoli, have existed in some form behind the palace, largely due to the Medici family. When the Medicis moved into the palace in the mid-1500s, grid patterns and design work on the gardens were started. The name “Boboli” is actually a nickname that refers to wooded areas.
The gardens have had their highs and lows over the centuries depending on who was ruling Florence, as some rulers left the gardens in disrepair. These gardens have been restored to their original glory, however, and offer a peaceful retreat on a hill overlooking Florence. On a clear Sunday morning in the winter, visitors can hear church bells and see snow on the mountains in the distance, which I loved. Be sure to time a visit when the weather is clear as the vantage points across Florence are incredible.
I have even visited the gardens during high tourist season, but the grounds stay pretty quiet as most visitors do not explore much beyond the Ponte Vecchio.
The Boboli Gardens are well-maintained and include anything from a Porcelain Museum, a cypress lane (cypress trees in Tuscany often line roads entering villas), a Kaffeehaus (painted in its original colors which was originally a resting place for royals) grottoes, statues and fountains. Visitors should be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes with good tread, as some of the trails can be slippery and steep.
Nature trails can be found throughout the gardens and on a Sunday morning, I was pleased to hear birds everywhere on the grounds. Be aware, however, that signs in several languages are scattered through the area warning visitors to stay off the grass.
The gardens include a café and a couple bookshops. I enjoyed having a hot cup of coffee in the cold February weather, sitting outside at the restaurant in such a setting.
For winter visitors, be sure to dress warmly as frigid winds can blow through the gardens. In the warmer months, bug spray might be a wise option as there are insects along some of the trails.
Admission to the gardens is not cheap but two ticket options are available. Ticket two for 7.50 euros is cheaper than the ticket three combination of 11.50 euros (but this ticket includes admission to the royal apartments at Pitti Palace as well).
I am a big fan of both public gardens and trying to escape crowds of tourists, particularly in popular visitor destinations like Florence. The Boboli Gardens should be on any visitor’s list as the grounds are historical, beautifully designed and a quiet reminder of Italian Renaissance landscaping.