Florence Parks and Gardens
The gardens of Tuscany are a sight to behold, casual yet elegant, comfortable, inviting and extremely romantic.
For centuries the Tuscan landscape has exerted a powerful hold on the imaginations of Italian city dwellers and foreign visitors with its human scale, and the merging of vineyards and olive groves into gardens and then into the villas themselves. With the revival of Classical culture from the fourteenth century, this landscape has been incorporated architecturally into the villas and gardens that grew in the environs of the cities of Florence and Siena, and later the villas created from castles, fortified abbeys and towers throughout the province.
Della Gherardesca Garden | The garden’s original layout dates back to the construction of Bartolomeo Scala’s palazzo, built on a project by Giuliano da Sangallo between 1472 and 1480. Cited by sources as one of the finest gardens of Florence, at the end of the 16th century the property entered the possession of cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici, followed by his sister Costanza who married a Della Gherardesca. With its classical layout, the garden was divided into a vegetable garden, a vivarium and a trammel-net (originally property of the Wool Merchants’ Guild).
Count Guido Alberto Della Gherardesca gave the garden an English arrangement, creating footpaths, an artificial lake and a plantation of high-trunk trees of rare species, several of which can still be seen, including a large maple, a sequoia and a Tassus Baccata, the most impressive plant in the garden. The numerous botanical rarities included the first mandarin orange trees, recalled by Antonio Targioni Tozzetti, which were in 1844 the first cultivated in Florence. In the course of remodelling the garden, several small buildings were created, including a small Ionic temple and a kaffeehaus, on projects by Giuseppe Cacialli, and a tepidarium with a statue of Count Camillo, to recall the reclamation of Maremma. In 1857, the garden hosted the fourth Exhibition of the Tuscan Society of Horticulture.
Becoming property of the Società Metallurgica Italiana [Italian Metallurgical Society] after World War II, it was subjected to rehabilitation by Piero Porcinai, which restored it to its former splendour.
Address: Firenze, Borgo Pinti 99
Villa Palmieri is famed for the medieval garden described by Boccacio rather than for its Victorian Mixed Style garden, made for the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres in the 1870s. It has remnants, including a lemon garden, from a late seventeenth century Baroque design. Queen Victoria herself used to come here to stay with the Earl's family. One can gaze through the mists of time to see the stuffiness of Victorian formalism and the Italian late-Baroque. Or one can look further back, to see the gay freedom of Bocaccio's revelling youth.
The Villa Palmieri is shown in the lower left corner of the Francesco Botticini's most famous painting, The Assumption of the Virgin.
Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Palmieri
The Medici Villa in Fiesole has gracious terraces, as Alberti recommended, cut into a stony hillside. There are panoramic views of the River Arno and Florence. Sites for earlier villas had been chosen because they were easy to defend, or because of their rich agricultural surroundings. Giovanni de Medici, Cosimo's overweight, libidinous, cultured and favourite son was a child of the renaissance. He cared for art, music and beautiful views. Michelozzo Michelozzi designed the villa. After Giovanni's early death, it was inherited by Cosimo's grandson, Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-92). Had it been built 50 years earlier, the garden would surely have been enclosed in the medieval way. Had it been made 50 years later, the terraces would have been joined with great flights of steps in Bramante's manner. As it is, the terraces have lawns and are shaded by paulownias. Paths are lined with lemon trees, brought out in the summer, and with geranium-filled terracotta pots. Originally, the upper terrace is likely to have been used as an extension of the house. The lower terrace was probably a vegetable garden. There is a secret garden (giardino segreto) which has wonderful views, to aid one's contemplation. Cosimo's Platonic Academy moved here, from Careggi. Horace Walpole's sister added the coach driive in the eighteenth century and an English architect designed the box parterres in the twentieth century.
Helena Attlee, in Italian Gardens, 2006, p16, writes that 'Any knowledge that we have of the layout and planting of Villa Medici's gardens comes from the inventory of 1492, which lists all the 'contiguous pieces of land', including 'a garden behind said villa with various small walled gardens or with surrounding walls and a piece of land in the grounds with cypresses and trees in a wood'. She thinks the 'small gardens' were probably enclosed beds on the upper terrace with pomegranate, orange and lemon trees. It was Lorenzo who made the garden of Villa Medici into an outdoor salon.
Address: via Mantellini, Fiesole, Firenze
Opening times: All year, Monday to Friday, open by appointment only
The Villa Peyron Garden is a composition of villa, garden, park, woods and olive groves with a wide view of Florence to the south and Castel di Poggio to the east. The garden has parterres and five terraces framed by woodland and descending the hillside. It was made by Angelo Peyron, after 1914, and his son Paolo Peyron.
Villa Peyron is one of the best maintained villas and gardens near Florence and offers a beautiful and breathtaking view of the city. It has been generously donated to the Monumental Bardini Parks Foundation and Peyron by Paul Peyron its owner.
Villa Peyron is a beautiful villa built on Etruscan ruins of which you can still see traces today amidst the Forests of Fontelucente. It is situated in Fiesole, and emerges from the lush forest with three beautiful terraces and many glorious fountains of which a one dates back to the sixth century. Many expensive and valuable statues dot the park and add that renaissance touch to the garden. It epitomizes the style of a neo renaissance garden.
Villa Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente is open to the public from Monday to Saturday and it is better to visit the villa after prior booking. There are many cultural events held especially during summer and the itinerary is available at their website.
FONDAZIONE PARCHI MONUMENTALI BARDINI E PEYRON
Directions: From Florence: Follow the signs to San Domenico/Fiesole. In Fiesole go straight through the Main/ Cathedral (Duomo) and Municipio (Town Hall) square, on up the hill on the same main road heading north.
About ½ km beyond Fiesole take the right-hand turning marked Vincigliata.
Go about another ½ km on the Vincigliata road to the first Villa on the right at no.2: this is Villa al Bosco di Fonte Lucente - Villa Peyron.
There are no.7 city buses every 20 minutes from the Santa Maria Novella railway station to Fiesole, which also stop at the Duomo in via Martelli, and then in Piazza San Marco. The final stop is in the main square at Fiesole.
From there the no. 47 bus leaves 6x a day, and stops at Villa Peyron.
Bus Times: Monday- Saturday: 7:47, 11:08, 12:57, 16:17, 18:57. Sundays and Holidays: 9:02, 10.42, 12:27, 16:02, 17:52, 19:27.