In my last post I wrote about our trip to lake Como, but we went further south to Tuscany to take in the beautiful landscapes, cities, rich history and two gardens. When in Florence, thousands of tourists flock together at the famous Boboli gardens and that is quite justified, but for a bit more calm and better views on the city you can head to the neighboring Bardini gardens. In a later post I will surely tell some more about the Boboli gardens, but I’ll focus my attention on the Bardini gardens for now. The fact that they are lesser known is due to the fact that they only opened to the public in 2005, but these stunning gardens have quite some history.
For a bit of history we go all the way back to medieval times when the very wealthy Mozzi family had its huge palazzo near the Ponte alle Grazie. It was one of the few houses that had a walled garden connected tot the palazzo. This completely inclosed garden, a hortus conclusus, is typical of the medieval times. It was actually nothing more than an enclosed orchard. In those times it was important to grow food within the city walls in case of a siege. When we jump to the 17th century, the garden that we see today, is actually in the hands of two different owners. In this period the grand staircase and the two pavilions at the top are constructed in the garden of the Mozzi’s. the terraces were planted with vines and to the east the orchard was still intact. The Mozzi part of the garden is still quite intact in these days. The other part came into the hands of Luigi Le Blanc at the beginning of the 19th century, who turned his part in an Anglo-Chinese style garden. It was dotted with fountains, a small ‘lake’ and a fake grotto. In 1839, the Mozzi family finally unified the two gardens and sold the property from Le Blanc. Unfortunatly the Mozzi fortune dwindled and they had to sell it all. In 1913, antique dealer, Stefano Bardini bought the Palazzo, two houses, a farm and the gardens. He laid out a new avenue to link the house on top with the Mozzi Palazzo. This was a bit unfortunate as now the link between the baroque staircase and the palazzo was wiped out. A nicer addition he made was a loggia in between twe towo pavilions at the top of the stairs, which serves now as a cafetaria with a stunning view on the city. In 2000 the completely overgrown garden got a complete renovation which was a long and complex undertaking.
When we visited the garden we entered at the upper part of the garden at the Costa San Giorgio. From here you have normally also an easy link to the Boboli gardens over the Belvedere fortress, in these Covid-times the entrance at the Boboli side is closed, so you need to do bit of a detour. When you enter at the upper part you are plunged in the romantic anglo-chinese part of the gardens. It’s lovely to stroll around the wooded maze of paths and bounce onto the dragon channel with its banks planted up with azalea. In this area you can also discover the Venus fountain and statue of Ceres and Bachus. More up there is a large camelia collection in the woods near the 14th century city walls.
When you pass the lemon house you end up on the belvedere terrace, with stunning views over the city and the baroque staircase. Don’t forget to take a break in the loggia with a glass of wine and a piece of cake. Once passed the belvedere you arrive in the more rural part of the garden. A Wisteria tunnel leads you in between the old orchard and the olive grove towards the middle landing at the staircase (La scalinata). When you go down the stairway you have multiple flower beds, each with the planting scheme and plant list. Admire the statues at the fountainwall.
This brings you to the rose pergola and the peony garden. When you see the wall with embeded Chrest of the Mozzis you are almost at the other entrance of the garden. Now you can walk all the way up on the winding path through the steep wooded slope. Do you already hear the waterfall ? If so you are almost back at the top a few more steps and you arrive back were we started. The terrace in front of the house boasts stunning views of Firenze.
When we visited the garden it was nice and calm and the perfect place to unwind after the hustle and bustle of the old city.
Next up : The Boboli gardens. But that is for another post.