Sunday afternoon in April was the perfect time to enjoy some arts, so I headed to Palazzo Pitti in Oltrarno, Florence. Oltrarno, literally means “beyond Florence”, is an area on the south of Arno River. The palace itself is only a few minutes walk from the-always-crowded Ponte Vecchio and has the famous garden called Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Gardens). Other than Palazzo Pitti, there are still more to see and do on the other side of the river, like gazing the Duomo at night from Piazzale Michelangelo, the 15th century Basilica di Santo Spirito, and of course going to the restaurants serving the local cuisines.
It so happened to be the first Sunday of the month, so the entrance to a lot of museums in Florence, including Palazzo Pitti, was gratis a.k.a free! Consequently, it looked like that half of the visitors in Florence wanted in and that resulted in a long queue outside the museums. But fortunately, the long line outside Palazzo Pitti was nothing compared the ones outside Uffizi or Accademia museums!
Famous as the official residence of the Medici family, the Renaissance palace was initially built (and owned) by a Florentine banker, Lucca Pitti, in the mid-15th century with the intent to compete with Palazzo Medici. Almost a century later, Eleonora di Toledo, the wife of Cosimo I de’ Medici (the Grand Duke of Tuscany), bought the palace. She wanted to live in a place with more open space, nature and sunshine, unlike Palazzo Vecchio (Palazzo della Signoria) in which they were living at that time. So, since the 1550s Palazzo Pitti became the couple’s official residence.
The relocation was followed by several changes to the town’s architecture. Cosimo I later ordered Giorgio Vasari to build a passageway to connect Uffizi (adjacent to Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of government) and Palazzo Pitti via Ponte Vecchio. The entire passageway or corridor was built above the ground; from the first floor of Uffizi to above the shops along the Old Bridge and ended at Grotta di Buontalenti in the Giardino di Boboli.
As soon as I got inside, I was drowned in a plethora of paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and carvings covering almost every inch of the palace.
Some of my my favourites, including the painting by Raphael.
A series of beautiful paintings called “The Four Ages of Man” by Pietro da Cartona in Camera della Stuffa (The Stove Room, once the bathroom of the Grand Duke). It took him 4 years to finish the entire walls (1437-1641). Each wall depicts a different period, from the Golden, Silver, Bronze to the Iron Age. 👇👇
The artworks from the floor up to the ceiling.
Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Gardens)
Fulfilling her own wishes, Eleonora di Toledo and Cosimo I commissioned the garden construction to Niccolò dei Pericoli (“il Tribolo”). Upon his death, his unfinished work was later continued by Bartolomeo Ammanati and Bernardo Buontalenti. The garden underwent several reconstruction and expansion in the next century, making it the largest garden in Florence.
Taking a 45-hectare-area on a hillside behind the palace, the visitors had to walk up the ramps from the amphitheatre to get to the nearest pond and the Fountain of Neptune. That was quite a good quick workout to have after some pasta and gelato 😁.
This lavish garden displays not only antiquities like the obelisk and the Roman basin, but also various sculptures from the 16th to the 18th centuries. There are a pavilion called the “Kaffeehaus”, a man-made cave (“Grotta di Buontalenti”), a tiny island surrounded by a moat (“L’Isolotto”) with its famous Fountain of the Ocean, the Lemon House, and many more to see.
Obviously, I did not manage to explore the entire garden (it was 45 hectares!). I called it a day after hours of indulging myself with art works and strolling around the garden. But in hindsight, having a light lunch there while enjoying the sun and the scenic garden wouldn’t be a bad idea at all!