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The Boboli Gardens in Florence embrace the true atmosphere of Florentine culture and history, as well as providing a welcome green space away from the heat and exertions of the city centre. Lying next to the Pitti Palace, the park was originally laid out by the Borgolo family in the early 15th century. A century later the land came into the ownership of Cosimo de Medici's family and saw the building of their new city residence. For the next three centuries these tranquil gardens were used as an outdoor museum, and showcase for Medici wealth, that included an ever-growing display of Roman and Renaissance statues.
Historic highlights of these beautiful gardens that still enchant today include the Amphitheatre, the Kaffeehaus, Grotto Grande and the Viottolone. These man-made features of the Boboli Gardens in Florence, along with cascading fountains, were created to blend perfectly with nature's oak trees and green landscape. This successful blend became a blueprint for the gardens of many European palaces, including Versailles in Paris. As you wander through the Boboli Gardens, you first come upon the octagonal Artichoke Fountain and Amphitheatre, after which a gentle stroll takes you up the hill to Neptune's Fountain overlooking a cool green pool.
The Viottolone is a large avenue of cypresses and statues, drawing the eye down to the large Isolotto pond, which holds Giambologna's Ocean fountain. The Kaffehaus with its green domed roof was added in the 18th century and is now home to a costume gallery, the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer's day. The Grotto Grande was partly conceived to provide a secret setting for the love affairs of Duke Francesco I de Medici. Inside, today's visitors can enjoy the famous Bathing Venus of Giambologna and Helen by Vincenzo de Rossi. A humorous touch as you exit the gardens is a statue of the court dwarf Morgante riding a giant tortoise.
These must-see gardens are open every day of the year except the first and last Mondays of the month, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and May 1st. The price for general tickets is EUR7 with concessions costing EUR3.50. These can rise to EUR10 and EUR5 during temporary exhibitions in the park. Combined tickets can be purchased which include entry to the Bardini Gardens, Silver Museum, Porcelain Museum and Costume Gallery.