Monday, May 11, 2015

Il Meraviglioso Giardino di Boboli

If you live in Florence, you can get in to the Boboli Gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti with just your identity card, but if you're a tourist, you'll have to buy a ticket. The Pitti Palace is on the south side of the city, between the River Arno and the Porta Romana, the 14th century gate that is all that's left of the old city walls on that side. Behind the palace the hill is topped with tree-lined walkways and wide lawns, interspersed with statues and ponds and alleys twisted through shrubby woodland. We didn't go into the palace itself, or into most of the museums, but we did wander around the gardens for a while, down to the large greenhouses where the lemon trees spend the winter, and up to the top of the lawns where we could look out over the city, and across to the hills on either side of the river.

At the very top of the hill there's a garden full of roses and peonies, and a small museum with porcelain and glass, dish sets belonging to noble families and delicate statues those families enjoyed looking at, but which their servants probably didn't enjoy dusting all of the time. If you have a ticket to the gardens, you can go into this museum for free. From the rose garden you can look out over a small olive grove, and the houses and villas on the surrounding hills.

Just below the garden there's a sloping lawn whose three sides go down to a small pond, and we sat there for a bit in the shade of a tree, drinking water and eating fresh strawberries we'd bought down by the river. There were other picnickers on the lawn, and people resting their feet after a day of sightseeing. You could tell the locals as much by their lack of cameras as by their language, and I think the couple indulging in long slow kisses was Italian, or at least that's how I'll remember them. A heron landed on the statue in the middle of the pond, and Mom thought she saw a fish jump in the green water. The breeze felt good after walking up and down the slopes in the sun.

The Forte di Belvedere was built to house the soldiers that protected Grand Duke Ferdinando I de' Medici, and it stands slightly higher than the top level of the Boboli Gardens. There are no soldiers there now, but there is (or was, when we were there) an exhibit called "Human" by British sculptor Antony Gormley. There are figures scattered about the fort singly and in groups, in contorted poses or natural looking ones, and some that seem to be doing yoga. There's not much else to see in the fort itself, but the view is good in all directions, as it would have to be for an effective fortress, I suppose.

Da chi mi fido, mi guardi Dio, da chi non mi fido, mi guarderò io.
- Italian proverb

We looked to the north, across the Arno, and admired the red roofs of the city. We looked to the south, over the rolling green hills and olive gardens. And we looked to the east, towards the abbey on top of the next hill over, and walked down a steep and winding road, then up another steep and winding staircase to the Piazzale Michelangelo, the setting for another photo-rich and word-poor post.

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