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Florentine gardens

From the Boboli Gardens to the Park of Cascine, a journey through the green heart of Florence

Florentine gardens

Florence, one of the world's most beautiful cities, never fails to impress the visitor with the quantity of artistic masterpieces to be found within its walls. This said, ideally a tour of the Tuscan capital should not be confined to endless hours spent inside its churches, palazzi, museums and galleries (let alone queuing to get in) and at least one sunny day should be spent outside, wandering through Florence's historic parks and gardens.

Right next to the entrance of Palazzo Pitti, gates lead to the city's most famous garden: the Giardino di Boboli. The garden, one of Italy's most stunning 16th century formal gardens, was built on a triangular plan with two steeply sloping orthogonal axes joining at the height of the Fountain of Neptune and adorned with any number of statues, fountains, and artificial caves. From its terraces a quite magnificent view of the city can be admired.

In the Giardino dei Semplici, managed by the University of Florence, the officinal species to which this historic Botanical Garden owes its name are still cultivated. The medicinal herbs and plants are grown in a series of green houses and in ponds, the latter providing the ideal habitat for a fascinating collection of aquatic plants.

Not nearly as famous, but just as interesting, Florence's Bobolino and Torrigiani gardens are both more than worthy of visit. Located within easy walking distance of each other in the vicinity of Porta Romana, the first is a public park which reproduces, on a much smaller scale, the Garden of Boboli, whilst the second is a private garden designed by Luigi Cambray-Digny. In the 19th century, the Torrigiani Garden was given the additional feature of a neo-gothic tower, complete with small astronomical observatory.

Those lucky enough to be visiting Florence during the month of May should be sure to climb up to the panoramic Piazzale Michelangelo, from where to observe a breathtaking view of the city and pay a visit to two gardens, the Giardino delle Rose and Giardino dell'Iris, both of which open to the public only in May, in occasion of the flowering season. The Giardino dell'Iris boasts over 2000 varieties of the flower which has been the symbol of Florence since the 12th century, period in which the form of the Giglio, or Iris, was used to adorn the silver coins of the Florentine Republic.

Just beyond the historic center, stretching along the right bank of the River Arno, lies the Parco delle Cascine: an immense 160 hectare public park created in what was once the hunting estate and cattle raising lands of Alessandro and Cosimo I de'Medici. In 2003, after extensive restoration work, the Cascine Velodrome was re-opened, named in honour of the famous, Florence-born cyclist Gino Bartali.

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