Pitti and Boboli Gardens

Palazzo Pitti and the courtyard of Ammanati 

Palazzo Pitti facade        Zoom in     Rustica     Pitti in urban context

Palazzo Pitti facade  Florence
photos: Yair Haklai;zoom: Ricardalovesmonuments; rustica: Дмитрий Мозжухин and urban: Sailko

Aside from its painting collection (museum) and its garden, the courtyard of Palazzo Pitti is worth a visit, too. It is a prime example of the style known as Mannerism, the foundation of which was laid by Michelangelo as described earlier. The original palace (reconstruction) was a detached palazzo belonging to the merchant Luca Pitti.

Alessando Allori ‘Lucca Pitti in front of his palazzo Pitti’ 1574 predella detail
Giusto Utens detail ‘Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens’ 1599

Alessando Allori ‘Lucca Pitti in front of his palazzo Pitti’

Bronzino ‘Eleonora di Toledo and her son Giovanni’ c. 1545 detail

In 1549, this palace was purchased by the wife of Cosimo I, Eleonora of Toledo. After this, it was expanded multiple times and Ammanati installed a few extra windows in the old core. The palace was built at the spot of a former stone quarry. The stones used for construction were taken from the garden behind the palace.

The courtyard of the Pitti, beneath a copy of the Farnese-Hercules “[…] shows a depiction of a mule (from 1575) from Bartholomeo Ammannati’s gallery. Above it, a curious yet touching inscription where the animal is praised for its loyal and hard-working service: ‘Lecticam Lapides et marmora, Ligna Columnas Vexit conduxit traxit et Istra tulit.’ Translated, this roughly says the following: ‘Dirt, rock, marble, wood and columns is what this [mule] moved, hauled, pulled and carried.” Translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Firenze Een Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak&van Gennep Amsterdam 2006 p. 182

Palazzo Pitti courtyard      Zoom in

Palazzo Pitti courtyard 
photos: Diego Delso
Palazzo Pitti courtyard detail columns
photo: Dimitris Kamaras


The courtyard was also designed by Ammanati. Between 1550 and 1562, he built the courtyard shortly after his return from Rome. In his design, he was clearly inspired by Antonio da Sangallo with his Palazzo Farnese in Rome. Ammanati uses the same order of arches and axes. For instance, the bottom floor uses the Tuscan order, the first floor uses the Ionic order and the last floor uses the Corinthian order. Nothing unusual, one would think, but the architect does not just use rustication for the walls, but also for the columns. The rustication for these columns extends outside of the shaft as if it were a continuation of the walls. This creates a kind of ambivalence between the columns and the rustication. The ground floor has round rings at the Tuscan order that are placed closely together. The first floor has squares surrounding the Ionic columns, clearly with more space in between. The top floor has a Corinthian order. This last order is a kind of synthesis of the two bottom orders. It does use rings (ground floor), but the distances at which they are placed from each other is equal to the first floor. The idea of a column with rustication dates back to Antiquity, like we can still see at the Porta Maggiore in Rome. Moreover, this combination of a column and rustication is based on the ideas of Michelangelo, which Ammanati later expanded on.

Courtyard of Palazzo Pitti      Zoom in     View from other side

photos: Daniel Hennemand Jardins de Boboli vus du palais Pitti ; Florence 2019.

Fountain and Courtyard

Palazzo Pitti: courtyard fountain
photo: Pistol Peet

Some of the triangular pediments have been opened up at the top. Strange columns and capitals can also be seen in the corners, where the facades meet. The left and right windows on the first floor above the entrance at the courtyard also show something unusual.  Two caryatids shaped like pilasters are standing watch, like true soldiers, their gazes fixed on each other.

View from the Boboli Gardens      Zoom in

Palazzo Pitti: View from Boboli Gardens
photo: Stefan Bauer

Boboli Gardens

Walking into the Boboli gardens, the garden behind the Palazzo Pitti, you can see clearly why Eleonora of Toledo purchased this palace (Wikipedia).  The gardens are very close to Florence, but are still in the midst of nature. The gardens were named after a plot of land, belonging to one named Boboli, which was purchased by Cosimo de Medici, Eleonora’s husband.

Amfitheatre      Zoom out      Amphitheatre

Palazzo Pitti: Amfitheatre
photos: Diego Delso; zoom: Raul; Amphitheatre: Dimitris Kamaras

The theatre was host to many performances, spectacles and events that the Medici offered their guests […] The theatre was inaugurated in 1637 with a dance show based on Tasso’s Jerusalem Deliverd, in response to Vittoria delle Rovere becoming Grand Duchess of Tuscanys. As a result of this marriage [Cosimo III and Marguérite-Louise of Orleans], a show was held in the amphitheatre titled Il mondo festeggiante (The celebrating world) which included a giant Atlas statue carrying a globe (according to Greek mythology, Atlas is carrying the firmament) and moving mechanically across the amphitheatre. The globe would ultimately open and four women would emerge representing the four parts of the world as known at that time (Europe, Asia, Africa and America). (Australia had only recently been discovered by the Dutch seafarer Abel Tasman.) The print room of the Uffizi [and Rijksmuseum] have an etching from 1661 by Stefano della Bella, who illustrated this spectacle.” 
Translated from: Luc Verhuyck ‘Firenze Een Anekdotische reisgids’ Athenaeum-Polak&van Gennep Amsterdam 2006 pp. 38-39

Valerio Cioli ‘Morgante as Bacchus’      Zoom in      In situ   

This garden hosts many statues, a fair few of them being authentic and dating to Antiquity. Other statues are from the 16th, 17th or 18th century. Even the court jester and dwarf, Morgante, is immortalised in stone in 1560 as Bacchus seated on a turtle, by Valerio Cioli.

Palazzo Pitti: Valerio Cioli ‘Morgante as Bacchus'
photos: Sebastià Giralt and in situ: Sailko

The gardens are divided into roughly two sections. Both sections are marked by sightlines. The first part is behind the Palazzo Pitti and the sightlines ends at the hill (see map; the line runs from number 5, the amphitheatre, to number 8, a colossal statue of Giambologna named: Abbondanza). From this hill, you have a splendid view over the city and its surroundings. The other section is perpendicular to the first section and extends west until the Porta Romana. The Viottolone, part of the second sightline, is a lane with Cyprus trees (see map; line running through number 10, a pond named Isolotto).

Map of the Boboli gardens:
1.   Morgante as Bacchus
2.   Grotto of Buontalenti
3.   Cave of the goats (Grotticina Madamo entrance)
4.   Fountain of the Artichoke
5.   Amphitheatre
6.   Coffee house
7.   Neptune Fountain
8.   Statue of Abundance
9.   Garden of Cavaliere
10. Isolotto
11. Meridiana

Spider lane

photo: Rachel

To the Isolotto

Boboli gardens: Isolotto
photo: Marc Buehler

The Gate       Path and Fence

Boboli gardens: Isolotto gate
photos: Sailko and fence: Andrey O!


Boboli gardens: Isolotto
photo: Nemo bis


“The Isolotto is an oval-shaped island in a tree-enclosed pond, and is nearly at the end of the alternative Viottolone axis. In the centre of the island is the Fountain of the Ocean, and in the surrounding moat, there are statues of Perseus and Andromedae (school of Giambologna). The Isolotto was laid out by Giulio and Alfonso Parigi, circa 1618.” Cited from Wikipedia

Boboli gardens: Isolotto
photo: Sailko

Close to Morgante lies the cave of Buontalenti. This cavern traces back to a design by Vasari.

Grotto of Buontalenti       Zoom in

Boboli gardens: Grotto  Buontalenti

Grotto      Vincenzo de’ Rossi ‘Theseus and Helen’      Theseus and Helen

Boboli gardens: Grotto  Buontalenti  intrior
photos: Marc Buehler and Sailko

This place not only had statues of Vincenzo de’ Rossi ‘Paris and Helena’ but also the Slaves (bearded slave) of Michelangelo. Plaster casts have now taken the place of the original statues. The original statues were moved to the Accademia in 1909.

Continuation Florence day 2: Porta delle Suppliche and Palazzo Zuccari