Garden that extends from the hill behind the Pitti
Palace as far as Porta Romana, reached its current
extension and appearance, becoming one of the largest
and most elegant Italian style gardens, through
several stages of enlargement and restructuring
work carried out at diffrent times.
The first works initially affected the area that
was closer to the palace, after the buildung had
been purchased by Cosimo I de´ Medici and
by his wife Eleonora di Toledo, who had chosen this
place for new grand ducal palace. The initial plan
was drawn by Niccolò Tribolo, although the
works were completed, after his death in 1550 by
other architects including also Giorgio Vasari (from
1598 to 1561) along with Bartolomeo Ammannati and
Bernardo Buontalenti under the reign of Francis
I, who succeeded to his father Cosimo.
The Medici and the Lorraine families continued to
enrich and enlarge the garden also in 17th, 18th
and 19th centuries. Besides adding lovely meadows,
avenues, small groves and beautiful panoramic views,
they made the garden more precious by including
extraordinary decorative complexes, thus forming
an outdoor museum that exhibited both Roman and
16th and 17th century statues.
The first phase led to the creation of an "Amphitheatre"
adjoined to the hill behind the palace. The early
amphitheatre, initially formed by edges and
evergreen meadows, was later replaced by a
stone one decorated with statues based on Roman
myths such as the Fountain of the Ocean sculptured
by Giambologna, then transferred to another location
within the same garden, the small "Grotto of
Madama", and the "Large Grotto",
which has begun by Vasari and ended by Ammannati
and Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593. Despite the
fact that it is currently undergoing complex restoration
work (1998) due to the damages suffered over centuries
these statues continue to be remarkable examples
of Mannerism architecture and culture. Decorated
internally and externally with stalatites and originally
equipped with water plays and a luxuriant vegetation,
the fountain is divided into three main sections.
The first one was frescoed to create the illusion
of a natural grotto, that is a natural refuge to
allow shepherds to protect themselves from wild
animals, and originally housed the Prisoners of
Michelangelo, which were moved to this location
after they had become part of the Medici collection
(the original statues have now been replaced by
copies). The rooms that follow exhibit valuable
sculptures like the "Bathing Venus" of
Giambologna and the group of "Paris and Hellen"
of Vincenzo de Rossi.
Due to their very nature, these historical garden require constant restoration and maintenance.
A schedule has therefore been established which provide for their seasonal, yearly and long-term care through periodic renovation and upkeep.
Clearly, the architectural component and plant life are involved more frequently than the inorganic structures of the garden and its decorations, and although the different types of work are not necessarily interdependent, they have been planned for during the same period of time.
Moreover, the need to safeguard sculptural works from degradation by atmospherical agents and vandalism often requires housing the originals indoors and replacing them with copies for display. Thus, the gardens' furnishings are necessarily in an incomplete and constantly changing state.