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text Domenico Savini

Welcome to Wonderland

A special spring tour through Florence’s most beautiful private gardens

They are lush, green lungs in the heart of Florence, but also the symbol of the sophisticated art of landscaping born in the Medicis’ age and with the Boboli Gardens, the Italian-style garden par excellence, the first one, the one which served as inspiration for all the other sumptuous gardens of royal palaces across Europe. Here is a tour of Florence’s most beautiful private gardens, a lovely alternative to a walk through the city’s cobblestone streets, to be enjoyed during the most glorious time of the year, Spring.
In 1913, antique dealer Stefano Bardini purchased the property in the Oltrarno district just a few steps away from the Ponte alle Grazie bridge. The garden’s most spectacular element is the baroque-style staircase that leads up to the top of the hill, from where one can admire a breathtaking view of Florence. The garden is filled with plants of roses, irises, hydrangeas and features two grottoes and several fountains. There is also a rare collection of camellias and old fruit tree varieties such as Francesca, Annurca, Diacciola, Mela rosa apples, Bella di giugno, Madernassa and Campana pears, plum and peach trees. A large portion of the garden is sheltered with wisteria vines, which are in full bloom from March through May (open every day 8.15 am – 6.30 pm, closed on the first and last Monday of the month, on January 1, May 1 and December 25, admission is € 8, entrance from Via de’ Bardi 1 red and Costa San Giorgio 2, tel. + 39 055 2638599).
The garden of Palazzo Corsini al Prato was designed by Gherardo Silvani in the Italian style. The garden leads to the big loggia on the ground floor of the building, the construction of which began under the supervision of Buontalenti in the late 1500s and was completed, after 1621, by Gherardo Silvani. The large garden is bisected by a central avenue lined with statues. In the early 1800s, the garden was enlarged to include a small hill, a lake and some paths running through the thickets (open every day from 9 am to sunset, closed on Sundays and public holidays, admission is € 10, entrance from Via il Prato 56-58, tel. +39 055 210594).
DELLA GHERARDESCA GARDEN (currently owned by Four Seasons Hotel Firenze)
Originally, it was a classic-style garden owned by the wool guild of Florence: it had a vegetable garden, a nursery and a big fish pond. The whole structure included the building designed by Giovanni da Sangallo in the 1400s. In the late 1500s, the whole property was purchased by Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici and then inherited by his sister, who had married into the Della Gherardesca family. In the 1700s, the grounds were redesigned in the English style to include footpaths, bushes, a small lake, tree groves. There are many different botanical species, including rare varieties, such as the first tangerines grown in Florence, an imposing maple tree, a sequoia and a giant thuja (open every day to the customers of the bar, spa and restaurant of Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, 24-hour advance booking is required for gourmet picnic basket service, entrance from Borgo Pinti 99, tel. +39 055 26261).
The vast park of “Villa Peyron - Il Bosco di Fontelucente” in Fiesole offers a magnificent view of the city. Built and enlarged by the owner Paolo Peyron, the park is currently preserved and managed, along with the Bardini Garden, by the Bardini and Peyron Monumental Parks Foundation, established in 1998 by Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. The park features about 260 plant species, thus, containing an extensive biodiversity. The wood is rich in cedars, pine trees, poplars, oaks, elms, ash and willow trees. There are bay trees, strawberry trees and junipers. About forty citrus fruit plants and at least thirty camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons are grown in big terracotta vases. The park includes twenty-nine fountains which work by using the non-returnable water system: water is pumped in from the source and then flows back into the Mensola stream (open 10.00 am-4.30 pm, special openings: March 31- April 2, April 25 - May 1, every Saturday and Sunday from June 2 to July 29, 2018 and from September 1 to 30, admission is € 8, entrance from Via di Vincigliata 2, Fiesole, tel. +39 055 5978278).
The Torrigiani Garden is one of the few large green spaces within Florence’s urban area and wonderfully preserved. A typical example of an early nineteenth-century Romantic-style garden. The property was enlarged between 1802 and 1817, spreading over about 10 hectares of land and extending from Piazza Torquato Tasso to Via dei Serragli. The garden features the famous Tower designed by Gaetano Baccani and built in 1825 to serve as observatory. It also includes hothouses, lemon-houses, greenhouses and a variety of plants grown in pots and in the ground: fruit trees, magnolias, pines and cypresses (by appointment only, Via dei Serragli 144, tel. +39 055 224527).

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