The Boboli Gardens are, quite literally, a breath of fresh air. They are the only easily accessible reservoir of greenery and tranquility in Florence, and a lovely retreat after a hard day’s sightseeing.

The Boboli Gardens were created for the Medici when they moved to the Palazzo Pitti in 1550. They represent a superb example of Italian Renaissance gardening, an interplay between nature and artifice expressed in a geometrical arrangement of fountains, grass and low box hedges. In 1766 they were opened to the public, and in 1992 an (unpopular) entrance charge was imposed.

Just behind the Palazzo Pitti is the amphitheatre, built where the stone for the Palazzo Pitti was quarried. It was the suite of the first-ever opera performance and is surrounded by maze-like alleys of fragrant, dusty bay trees. Go uphill past the Neptune Fountain (1565-68) to reach the Giardino dei Cavallieri, where roses and peonies wilt in th summer sun. The pretty building nearby houses the Museo delle Porcellane.

The Viottolone, an avenue of cypresses planted in 1637 and studded with classical statues, leads to the Isolotto, an island set in a murky green pond dotted with pleasantly crumbling statues. In the middle is a copy of Giambologna’s Oceanus fountain (1576), the original of which is in the Bargello.

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