We all know the fascinating museums of Florence, but how many of you know about their magnificent gardens and parks? These Florentine treasures have influenced and inspired numerous others. Make sure to take in their wonders yourself!
Florentine Villas and their Gardens
These grand Renaissance Villas are works of art, not just for the villas themselves, but the extravagant gardens surrounding them.
Villa Demidoff was designed as a fairytale garden full of flourishing flowers, beautiful fountains, and awe-inspiring sculptures. The most iconic aspect of the garden is the formidable statue of Colossus of the Apennines by Giambologna that towers over the central lily pond. The garden is a little way outside the city center and is only open on weekends from late spring to early fall.
Villa Petraia transports the viewer back in time with its interiors being preserved with their original furnishings from the Savoy era. The grounds have expanded over time but boasts an elaborate terraced gardens including a dwarf fruit garden, a flower garden, two labyrinths and an English styled park. The villa and its garden are free and open to the public everyday.
This former orchard turned garden is developing into a must-visit attraction in Florence. Located in the Oltrarno, the garden is a steep incline of terraced space that overlooks the entire city and gives the visitor a beautiful panorama of Florence. One of the key highlights of the Bardini gardens is the wisteria walkway, a dazzling path with pergolas covered in the blooming flowers in April.
While the villa is no longer open to the public, the gardens are what people really come for at the Villa Fabbricotti. The expansive garden is within walking distance of the city center and it is the perfect place to have a picnic and get out of the city for a little while.
The Gardens of Florence
These ingenious, and sometimes bizarre, gardens were created to leave an everlasting impact on their visitors.
Originally an Italian style garden, the Stibbert Garden was radically transformed when it was bought in 1870 by Frederick Stibbert, who is also the founder of the Stibbert Museum which is on the property and boasts a marvelous collection of antiques. The garden is now styled after the English gardens and all of the various walking paths lead to an Egyptian temple on the banks of a small pond. The Stibbert Garden is a short ride from Florence’s city center by bus and is free to the public.
Hailed as one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, and the prototype for the gardens at Versailles, the Boboli Gardens is a fabulous open-air museum of nature, sculpture and architecture. Situated almost in the heart of Florence the garden is a part of the Pitti Palace and is definitely worth the 6-10€ ticket price (free, unlimited entrance if you purchase a Friends of the Uffizi Card!). The garden has a host of fountains, sculptures, and grottos scattered through its vast landscape. This is a must visit garden, you never know what fascinating thing you will find around the hedge.
Parco delle Cascine
Cascine Park runs along the Arno river just outside the city center. The 395 acre park has various gardens, forested areas, and meadows. This large expanse of park land is a great place to bike, run, roller-blade and even swim in their public pool. Every Tuesday morning the park hosts a large outdoor market that has everything from fresh fruit to cheap shoes. The park is within walking distance from the center city, but there is also a tram that runs from the train station to the park that makes it more convenient.
Garden of Roses
Walking up from the Oltrarno to Piazzale Michelangelo you barely notice a small arched door just to the side of the Scalea del Monte alle Croci, but hidden in plain sight is the Garden of Roses. This garden is a beautiful break from the streets of Florence with its lustrous roses and grassy expanses, and is the best place to enjoy a nice picnic lunch. This Rose Garden also boasts one of the best views in Florence, giving you a panorama of the entire city. Designed by Giuseppe Poggi in 1865, the garden was originally developed to celebrate Florence becoming the capital of Italy.
Garden of Irises
Right under the Piazzale Michelangelo is the Garden of Irises, a hillside field that was created by the Italian Iris Society to celebrate Florence’s national flower. The garden is only open for one month, from April to May, but hosts over 1,500 varieties of Irises.
Other Beautiful Open Spaces in Florence
Parks and gardens are not the only outdoor treasures of Florence. These green houses, fortresses and cemeteries are worth a trip to witness.
Poggi’s Ramps were restored and opened to the public once more in June 2019. These beautifully crafted alcoves and fountains were created by Giuseppe Poggi in the 1870s when Florence was the capital of Italy. They sit along the Arno river in the Oltrarno, a short walk from the city center, and wind up the hillside to the Piazzale Michelangelo. Bonus: directly in front of the ramps along the Arno is Florence’s “Spiaggetta.” A city beach space with bar and events during the summer months.
Just outside of the city center, near Piazza della Libertà, this beautiful garden was created for the Tuscan Horticultural Society and has a nice expanse of meadows and forested areas. The main attraction of the Giardino dell’Orticoltura is the English style glass greenhouse and the exotic flowers within. The garden plays host to various flower markets and events and in the summer a bar is set up with live concerts every night.
The Belvedere Fortress is the second largest fortress in Florence and lies on the Southern Hills of the city, accessible through the Boboli Gardens. It is a great example of Renaissance military architecture, and also provides a great view of the city and surrounding area. The fortress itself is used as a contemporary art gallery and elite event space, having been used for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding in 2014.
Orto dei Semplici
Orto dei Semplici is a botanical garden operated by the University of Florence and is located in the center of Florence. The garden was developed by Cosimo I de’ Medici and was created as a medicinal garden in the English style. There are over 9,000 plant specimens at the garden including a Taxus baccata tree that was planted in 1720. The garden is open to the public weekday mornings.
The English Cemetery is located on a small hill within walking distance of the city center. The white marble graves are arranged in a romantic layout and in the spring the cemetery is blossoming with iris flowers. This cemetery was the inspiration for Boecklin’s painting “Isle of the Dead” and is also the resting place for many notable names such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning.