Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad
And the musk of the rose is blown.
Excerpt from “Come into the Garden, Maud” Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron
On Saturday morning, before the crowds began to converge, I walked to the Palazzo Pitti (also called the Pitti Palace) in the Oltrarno. Mornings, as I mentioned before, are quite nice in Florence. The air is cool; locals stroll down streets with their dogs, and the subtle smell of pastries lures passersby into cafes.
Travel Tip: If visiting Florence for only a few days, I would recommend choosing one day to get up early and go to a museum and, on the other days, simply walk around in the morning and let your surroundings and interactions dictate where you go.
A Little History:
The Palazzo Pitti possesses quite an imposing facade, constructed of solid stone blocks. The building houses numerous art collections and serves as the entrance to the Boboli Gardens. Like Florence’s Duomo, Filippo Brunelleschi designed the building (for the Pitti Family). However, in 1549, the Medicis purchased it and took up residence there. Florence’s patron family then commissioned Bartolomeo Ammannati to expand the palace. Today, it houses the Palatine Gallery, Silver Museum (Medici heirlooms), Gallery of Modern Art, Museum of Costume and Fashion, and the Porcelain Museum. Needless to say, I would not recommend trying to see the whole museum and gardens in one day, although visitors can buy bundle tickets.
Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away !
Excerpt from “The Glory of the Garden” by Rudyard Kipling
Unlike the more wild gardens found throughout the Florence, Giardino Boboli exemplified controlled and ordered beauty. It was clear a large staff worked to take care of the grounds, as certain sections of the lawn were sheared to a smooth green planes encircling sculptures and fountains.
Evenly trimmed hedges created tunnels of green. In the back section of the garden, a winding path snaked back and forth, enclosed by walls of small-leafed hedges.
In another stunning section, a platform, shaped like a square cross with a circular center, floated in a small lake. On the platform, small pathways twisted through rows of multicolored flower and fruit bushes. A short, stone walkway connected the platform to the mainland, but it was unfortunately closed to the public. Overall, the garden exuded a stately feel, which explained it’s location behind the Pitti Palace.
Despite the obvious upkeep, certain sections of the garden still exuded a wild, almost magical, quality. On the outer fringes of the garden, the grounds remained very manicured, but deeper into the center, the scenery became more unkempt, although still beautiful. In particular, I could almost picture myself in Narnia when I walked into a tunnel enclosed by a roof of intertwined branches. Thin streams of light filtered through the leaves overhead, and little pebbles crunched under my feet.
But, as Rumpelstiltskin warned, magic always comes with a price:
As I ventured deeper into the gardens’ 11 acres, with the foliage becoming denser and the air a bit more heavy, I came face to face with an old enemy – the mosquito. Within minutes, numerous bites speckled my arms and legs. In an attempt to mitigate the onslaught, I whipped out my bug repellent ankle bracelet, which I had, by chance, stuffed in the bottom of my backpack. Unfortunately, it was like showing up to a battle with a small dagger, and my peaceful stroll through the gardens morphed into a sprint. As I had already paid the 10 euro entry fee, I was not about to leave without at least seeing most of the garden. So, I sojourned onward. But for those who may visit the park in the future, bring bug repellent or beware!