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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Boboli Gardens- Part I




The Boboli Gardens are an historic park in the city of Florence. They were born as a garden of the Grand Ducal Palazzo Pitti, they are also linked to Fort Belvedere, a military outpost for the safety of the king and his family. The garden, which annually hosts over 800,000 visitors, is one of the most important examples of Italian garden in the world and is a veritable outdoor museum, setting architectural and landscaping for the sculpture collection, which ranging from Roman antiquity to the nineteenth century.

The gardens are behind the Pitti Palace, residence of the Medici first, then of the Lorraine and the Savoy, and were built between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, occupying an area of 45,000 square meters. The first setting of the Renaissance style is visible in the nucleus closest to the palace, new parts were added over the years with different settings: the long axis parallel to the axis of perspective building born of this avenue, from which the unfold gravel paths that lead in ponds, fountains, nymphs, temples and caves. Remarkable is the importance of taking in the garden statues and buildings, as the eighteenth century Kaffeehaus (rare example of rococo), which allows you to enjoy the view over the city, or the Limonaia, still in the original green of Lorraine.
The name "Boboli" may have arisen from the possessions of the Borgoli family, that were in the territory of the church of Santa Felicita Oltrarno. Luca Pitti bought them as allotments in 1418, forty years before starting the construction of the palace who bore his family's name.
With the passage of the Medici property in 1549 for the purchase by Eleonora from Toledo, wife of Cosimo I de 'Medici, began the beautification and expansion, which involved, off course, the garden. It was started by Nicholas Tribolo, the architect who, ten years earlier, had proudly worked on the gardens of the Villa Medici at Castello. Tribolo left a project with the amphitheater, the first axial perspective north-west/south-east, a natural extension of the courtyard of Ammannati, between the palace and the Future Fort Belvedere . The stone used to build the Palazzo Pitti was in fact taken from the basin of the amphitheater, that is artificial. Tribolo died shortly thereafter in 1550, then the direction of the work passed to Bartholomew Ammanati and then to Bernardo Buontalenti. During the reign of Cosimo II (1609-1621) the garden undergone the most great magnification, nearly tripling its size by Julius Parigi and his son Alfonso, the creators of the second axis towards Porta Romana (the so called Viottolone). The garden was opened to the public for the first time, although with proper restrictions, during the reign of Peter Leopold of Lorraine.

- Architecture and landscape
The gardens have an overall configuration of a vaguely elongated triangle, with steep slopes and two almost perpendicular axes that intersect near the Neptune Fountain which stands on the landscape. From the central axis paths, then develop a series of terraces, walkways, prospectic views with statues, paths, clearings, walled gardens and buildings, in an inexhaustible source of curiosity and scenic environments.
Among the various architects, excells the genial figure of Bernardo Buontalenti whom we owe the realization of the Buontalenti Big Cave, a masterpiece of Boboli Gardens. Behind the elegant entrance, supported by precious red marble columns, which dates back to the existing nursery by Giorgio Vasari, the Mannerist fantasy author has created three beautiful and amazing environments inspired by the theme of metamorphosis.

I have often walked in these gardens, so mysterious and fascinating. I can say I know them very well and, having often visited during the year, during different seasons, I took many photos of the various sections of these gardens. If anyone has seen the movie "The secret Garden", will understand perfectly the atmosphere of this vast park full of secrets and unusual and adorable landscapes...

                                                       modern map of the Gardens

old map of the Gardens

1) The first axis

-The amphitheater
The main axis, centered on the rear façade of the palace, rooms on the hill of Boboli, through a deep horseshoe- shaped amphitheater.
The Amphitheatre is one of the major architectures of Boboli's Garden. Used as a venue for summer performances (especially carousels and ballet on horseback broad stage), is the oldest theater in Florence.
The Boboli hill was used as a quarry of stone since the Middle Ages, for example the father of Arnolfo di Cambio had to extract the material for paving the streets. A deep hollow behind the Pitti Palace is already apparent in the siege of Florence Road in the fresco in the Palazzo Vecchio. Even for the construction of the palace Pitti was taken material from the nearby quarry. The work was started in 1550 (perhaps the preliminary work had taken place the previous year), expanding and regularizing the form the reservoir, with scores of geometric green, composed of oaks and, in the corners, cypress. The work was completed in 1551 when Tribolo had already disappeared and was replaced by David Fortini. Besides the evergreen thickets there were oaks, maples, beeches, limes and two groves of "dwarf fruit". The same year he was made a pipeline carrying water from a fountain at the center of John Fancelli's reservoir, carved in 1553. This decoration was replaced in 1576 by Giambologna's fountain of the Ocean, which now lies to the south, in the 'Islet of Boboli'. In 1561-1564 Ammannati stabilized the original architectural building with the retaining walls, the ornate cornices and other decorations in stone.
In 1615 the idea of the amphitheater "of greenery" was copied by Maria de 'Medici, the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.
-The amphitheater itself: the old set was dismantled in the sixteenth century to create a more complex structure that, through various changes, is what we see today. In 1618 the fountain of the Ocean was dismantled to realize a second ambitious project to create a real theater with bleachers. The work was soon interrupted by the death of Cosimo II. Only in 1630, on behalf of Ferdinand II, he took up the project, which aimed to create a high masonry base, with seven orders of steps, linked to the audience by a system of internal stairs called "Boboli". In practice they could only construct the bleachers on the south side, being on the other side of a rock outcrop. The upper ring was decorated by gray stone niches that still exist, but moved to an another area of the garden, in the "orticini Buontalenti'. There were classical statues, statues inspired by Classical Times (like Apollinaris of Michelangelo, now in the Bargello) and statues of stone dogs that looked towards the palace.By that year the project, to which had also collaborated Alfonso Parigi the Younger, was completed. The building was inaugurated in 1637 during the coronation of Vittoria della Rovere, wife of Ferdinando II de 'Medici, Grand Duchess of Tuscany: on that occasion was staged a carousel horse.
The Lorraine period: later, however, the amphitheater was abandoned as a place of spectacle in favor of Italian opera of modern design. With the architect Jean-Nicolas Jadot of Lorraine, the audience turned into a parterre (a garden with geometric hedges), beautified with five statues taken from the Casino di San Marco. At the time of Peter Leopold there are minor interventions: the stairs, the kiosks and new terracotta pots placed between the newstands. The center of the amphitheater was embellished in 1790 with an Egyptian obelisk, one of the oldest monuments across the region that dates back to 1500 BC and comes from Heliopolis in Egypt. It was brought to Rome from Egypt at the time of Domitian in the Temple of Isis, built in the Campus Martius; after being unearthed at the end of the sixteenth century, it was placed in the garden of Villa Medici in Rome. He was transported to Florence in 1788 for the Grand Duke Peter Leopold, when he gathered all the Medici's collections in town to decorate his palaces. In 1840 was coupled with the large gray granite basin carved from a single block.From the amphitheater there is a fine view of the back of the palace, with wings arranged around the courtyard of the Ammannati, and of the fountain of the Artichoke.The festoons are instead largely the result of the restoration of 1924-1926.

old view of the amphitheater

view with the Aegyptian obelisk

general view

general view from the palace

view of Pitti palace and the fountain of the Artichoke

                                                   particular of the fountain of the Artichoke

-The basin of Neptune
Higher than the amphitheater, there is the basin of Neptune, through a double ramp adorned with three statues from Roman times: on the left Septimius Severus, a Roman magistrate on the right (each on a memorial stone), and in the center Demeter on a Roman base. The statue of Demeter is a Roman copy of an original greek, probably by Alcamenes, a pupil of Phidias.
The basin of Neptune, was created in 1777-1778 in place of a nursery. Here are gathered the waters irrigating the whole garden who have their source further higher, in the Garden of the Knight.
At the center of the basin stands the Fountain of Neptune, with the statue of the God of the sea rising from a rocky outcrop on which are also water nymphs and tritons. The main statue is the work of the sculptor in 1571 Stoldo Lorenzi and the fountain is called by the irreverent Florentines "pitchfork's fountain" because of Neptune's trident. Around the fountain, there are terraced lawns, sloping, similar to the amphitheater of which they reproduce the form below. At the top of this area is a statue of Abundance (1636) by Pietro Tacca (in collaboration with Sebastiano Salvini), already begun by Giambologna in 1608. It is a work in white marble with gilded bronze sheaf of wheat. The figure has the appearance of Joan of Austria, wife of Francesco I de 'Medici, and was commissioned as a memorial to a deceased Grand Duchess. Originally the statue was intended for a celebrating column for Piazza San Marco, which was never realized.
In this area, the garden is characterized by defensive walls that extend from near Fort Belvedere, which stands on the left. To soften the view of the wall there are many trees, hedges and a variety of plants that create some picturesque alleys. It is fair and pleasant, while visiting this area, to take time to discover all the alleys and the hidden paths created by high edges, all around this section of the gardens.

                                                                     a mysterious alley

the roman magistrate on the right

a shadowy path

                                                                     Fountain of Neptune

                                                                The statue of the Abundance

                                      The statue of the Abundance, from an another point of view

-The garden of the Knight

At the height of this axis, located south and out of phase with the city walls to mark the border, lies the Garden of the Knight, one of the walled gardens of Boboli, which is located exactly on a bastion of the fortifications built by Michelangelo in 1529, one year before the siege of the following year. In military architecture, the Knight was a structure built above of a rampart and from this derives the name of the garden. To access it you get on a strange scale, ie ramps and curves cross with a terrace built over a small circular room, this staircase was designed by Zanobi del Rosso between 1790 and 1793. The two statues that decorate the staircase depicting Flora and Jupiter both by Giovanni Caccini the young.
The garden is decorated with low hedges of boxwood that create geometric shapes and contain rare dahlias and roses, which bloom between May and June (but I've found the beautiful rose of the picture, blossoming in December!). The central fountain is called Monkey's fountain, by the three monkeys in bronze at the base of the fountain itself; at the center of the tank, the water gushes from a marble cherub.
Here you will find the casino of the Knight, a building built about 1700, commissioned by Cosimo III, where Cardinal Leopoldo de 'Medici kept his artistic and literary conversations, and where John Gastone had his retirement. The present form is simple, with walls decorated with painted frames and cornice decorated with terracotta statues and vases, are due to the arrangement of Zanobi del Rosso on behalf of the Lorraine, who used it to host the summer festivities of the court. Today it houses the Museum of Porcelain, since 1973.
The privileged position overlooking the back of the Boboli's hill still offers fresh views to the Tower of the Cock, with the agricultural lands with many olive trees, where it seems that the time has stood still.
Under the Casino of the Knight, there is a large store of water, called "basin of the trout", from which begins the pipes to irrigate the whole garden.

                                              hedges of boxwood creating geometric shapes
a beautiful rose of December

The marble cherub of the Monkey's fountain

Landscapes around the Garden

                                                             Another view of landscape

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