The last time Mr. Husband and I were in Italy, we wandered across the Ponte Vecchio to see the Pitti Palace facade, but didn’t have time to go in. When we returned from that trip I read a bit about the Boboli Gardens and had an I-could-have-had-a-V-8 moment when I realized what I missed. So, this time a more thorough trip to the palace was on the itinerary.
Oh No Not Again: Ticket Nightmare Number Two
As you’ll recall from Mr. Husband trying to buy tickets to climb the Duomo’s dome, Florence is full of ticketing fiascos. Pitti Palace turned out to be Ticketing Nightmare Number Two.
Like good little travelers we consulted a few up-tp-date guidebooks before we left and each book said Pitti Palace had re-organized their ticketing scheme to a Ticket 1, 2, or 3 plan. Ticket 1 (about 10 euro) got you into some parts of the palace, Ticket 2 (about 10 euro) got you into the Boboli Gardens and other parts of the palace, and Ticket 3 (13 euro) got you into everything and was valid for three days. Ticket 3 seemed the obvious choice since we were staying only a few blocks from the palace.
We went to the ticket office one evening thinking we could get the tickets and stroll around the palace a bit before dinner, then come back the next day and spend the day touring the gardens.
Let’s just say we walked away from the ticket booth cursing our guidebooks and cursing the palace (and since I was barely functional from lack of sleep, I decided to toss in a curse to the entire city of Florence while I was at it).
Ticket 1 and 2 were still available (for 3 euro more than the guidebooks listed(, but Ticket 3? Non-existent. Plus, Tickets 1 and 2 were only good for one day, not three. Muttering our curses we left the ticket booth to go see some other sites.
Let’s Try This Again
The next day we went back the palace, bought our Ticket 2, and (after a quick espresso stop), made our way to the Boboli Gardens. In reviews, I’ve seen many people complain about the walk up to the gardens, but unless you’re very feeble, it’s a pretty simple stroll and many elderly people were having no trouble with it.
The gardens date from the 16th century and were created for the wife of Cosimo de Medici, Eleanor di Toledo. As you might guess, they have loads of Italian-garden features such as formal symmetry, lots of statues, and plenty of little niches for courtiers to sneak off to.
Most Beautiful Gardens? Ummm….No.
According to the Visit Florence website, the Boboli Gardens are “the most beautiful gardens in the world.” I know they are trying to promote their city, but this is just not true. I did like the gardens for the fact that they are really the only green space in the heart Florence (as someone from the Northwest, I get a bit edgy if I can’t be among green things) and the garden are one of the few places in the city that isn’t crowded. However, there’s a lot to be desired as far as gardens go.
First, things just don’t seem that well maintained (weeds, overgrown plants, etc). Second, while there are some great views, the gardens themselves just aren’t that pretty. Third, the gardens just feel like an afterthought that aren’t cared for, but for which Florence is charging tourists a good chunk of change to see. As Mr. Husband and I said more than once, “It’s certainly no Versailles.” (Whose gardens are gorgeous and have the added bonus of being free.)
To tell the truth, the part of the gardens we found most fascinating wasn’t even the gardens themselves but the Belvedere Fort. This star-shaped fort was built around 1590 by Ferdinando de Medici (aka “Gran Duke”) supposedly to protect the palace and city, but was turned out to be simply a show of the Meidci power and strength.
The fort has plenty of little passageways to explore and a walk along the walls has wonderful views of the city. There’s also a guard cat near the entrance who will charge you a couple belly rubs for admission.
That’s it for this week. Next week, find out what forced us to flee Florence and head for the hills.
Ever been to the Pitti Palace or Boboli Gardens? What did you think? Which are your favorite gardens you’ve visited on your travels (mine are Kew Gardens)?