Here we are with the last part of this 3 parts article series called “Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy”. If you missed the first two parts, you can click here to check the first part out and here to check the second.
In the first part, you will also find an answer to one of the most asked questions I get about Florence, which is “Which is the best month of the year to go to Florence?”.
Buckle up and let’s start with the last part of this series without any further ado.
33. Galileo Museum
Since 1930, the museum has been housed in a historic palace that has been refurbished several times throughout the ages and bears the name of its final owners, the Castellanis. It houses a comprehensive and important collection of scientific instruments, demonstrating that Florence’s interest in science was as strong as its interest in art from the 13th century forward.
The Medici and Lorraine families’ interest in scientific, physical, and mathematical sciences gave rise to the collection, or at least the oldest core.
The first floor (11 rooms) is devoted to the Medici core: quadrants, astrolabes, meridians, dials, compasses, armillary spheres, compasses, and authentic pieces of art created by well-known Tuscan and European painters. Galileo’s original instruments, thermometers from the “Accademia del Cimento” (1657-1667), microscopes, and meteorological instruments are also on display at the museum. The second level (10 rooms) houses a significant collection of fascinating and attractive mechanical, electrostatic, and pneumatic instruments, most of which belong to the Lorraine family. Mechanical clocks, sextants, octans, pharmaceutical and chemical apparatus, and weights and measures are all covered in other sections.
Admission fee: 11€ /13$ p.p.
34. Basilica of the Holy Cross
The Basilica of the Holy Cross (Santa Croce), erected in 1212 when St. Francis of Assisi visited Florence and renovated for the Franciscan order in 1294, is the burial place for Florence’s great. Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was convicted by the Inquisition and could not receive a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death, are all buried here. A tribute to Dante stands as well, but his sarcophagus is empty (they buried him in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence).
The Cappella Maggiore has frescoes by Gaddi (1380) depicting the narrative of the Holy Cross, “Santa Croce,” and the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels include exquisite frescoes by Giotto depicting events from the lives of St. Francis and St. John the Evangelist. The south nave wall is adorned with an extraordinary relief by Donatello, the Annunciation, in gilded limestone. To the left of the entry is a tribute to Giovanni Battista Niccolini, a 19th-century writer who is supposed to have been the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.
The Santa Croce Basilica comprises sixteen family chapels and is regarded as the world’s largest Franciscan church. Legend has it that St Francis himself founded Santa Croce. Well-to-do families had chapels erected and decorated in their honour (and frequently to placate the church or seek forgiveness for sins they refused to stop committing) and dedicated to a favourite saint.
Often referred by the Florentines as “il sasso” or the stone, as it stood unfinished for over a century, the over-78-meter/256-foot tall bell tower stands to the right of the church within one of its three cloisters. The old bell tower, which stood above the Church’s apse, collapsed in 1512, and they halted the replacement because of a lack of funding. Everything came to a halt until the mid-nineteenth century, when it was ultimately completed.
Admission fee: 9€ /10.34$ p.p. or a combined ticket for the price of 15€ /17.4$ p.p., which includes the Basilica of Santa Croce, Opera del Duomo Museum and Baptistery of St. John.
35. Buonarroti’s House and Museum
Buonarroti’s House and Museum is both a pompous and Baroque exhibition of the family’s art treasures and a place to recall and appreciate Michelangelo’s genius.
One of the most extraordinary Florentine museums, it offers in the first place the possibility of admiring the two famous marble relief pieces, sculptured by Michelangelo in his early years: the “Madonna della Scala” (Madonna of the Stairs), which clearly shows the passion of this artist for Donatello and the “Battaglia dei Centauri” (Battle of the Centaurs) that echoes the admiration of the artist for classic art. In addition, the building houses rare art collections, including paintings, sculptures, majolicas, and archaeological finds, which are presently shown on the Museum’s two levels. A specially equipped room displays on rotation a few drawings of Michelangelo.
This is not Michelangelo Buonarroti’s birthplace; he was born at Caprese, in the province of Arezzo; however, it is one of the houses where the artist lived, and it was the Buonarroti family’s home for centuries.
Admission fee: 8€ /9.3$ p.p.
36. Arno River
The Arno River, the largest and most famous river in central Italy after the Tiber (Rome), originated in the Apennines, which runs through the famous Florence and Pisa, separating both cities into two sides.
Enjoy a peaceful walk along the quiet Arno river and the majestic view of Ponte Vecchio and the stunning architecture on both banks of the river, especially at sunset.
37. Brancacci Chapel in Our Lady of Carmel Church
The Brancacci Chapel is in the 13th-century Our Lady of Carmel Church.
Besides this chapel, the Old Sacristy contains a chapel with scenes from the life of St Cecilia attributed to Lippo d’Andrea (c. 1400), and the Corsini Chapel in the left transept encompasses interesting paintings on the ceiling (Ascension of Christ) and in the dome (The Trinity and the Virgin in Glory with Saints of the Old and New Testament) by Giuseppe Romei and Domenico Stagi.
The Brancacci Chapel, which was commissioned by a wealthy trader named Felice Brancacci, houses one of the greatest works of Renaissance art: the fresco cycle of Scenes from the Life of St. Peter, which was primarily painted in collaboration by Masaccio and Masolino between 1425 and 1427. The upper register frescoes include Masolino’s “Adam and Eve in the Earthly Paradise” and “Original Sin,” as well as Masaccio’s “Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Earthly Paradise” with the “Tribute Money and the Baptism of the neophytes,” and Masolino’s “Preaching of St. Peter” with the “Healing of the lame man and the raising of Tabit Masaccio painted two scenes on the end wall in the lower register: “St. Peter curing the sick with his shadow” and “Distribution of goods and the death of Ananias.”
Filippino Lippi finished the chapel’s decorating between 1481 and 1485, working on the lower register of the left wall, finishing Masaccio’s “Raising of the son of Theophilus and St. Peter enthroned” and painting his own “St. Peter in prison visited by St. Paul” on the adjacent pilaster. He frescoed the “Disputation of St. Peter and St. Paul with Simon Magus” and the “Crucifixion of St. Peter” on the opposite wall, and “St. Peter visited in prison” on the pilaster. Between 1746 and 1748, they extensively redecorated the chapel: Vincenzo Meucci frescoed the ceiling with the “Virgin consigning the Scapular to St. Simon Stock”, thus destroying Masolino’s Evangelists. They painted the lunettes of the Shipwreck of the Apostles and the Calling of the Apostles over.
Admission fee: 10€ /11.5$ p.p.
38. St Mark’s English Church
St. Mark’s English Church, housed in a 15th-century Medici palace, first opened its doors for worship in 1881.
Jason Arkles’ Apotheosis of Saint Mark is a white marble statue in the niche above the main entry. This is the first permanent public installation in Florence by an American sculptor. They had discovered and used the same marble that had been used to chisel the David.
The building was altered, turning the ground floor into a church with nave, aisles, transept and chancel, about 27 m /90 ft long. They decorated the interior in the Pre-Raphaelite style and the upper reaches of the church have floral motifs.
It not only holds mass but also plays an essential cultural role in the community. It hosts a resident opera company and offers concert choir performances.
39. Basilica of the Holy Spirit
The Basilica of the Holy Spirit is one of Florence’s most beautiful churches and a superb example of Renaissance architectural harmony. Brunelleschi designed it following a rigid geometrical plan to establish the perfection of shapes and proportion, but didn’t live long enough to see it completed.
Though Brunelleschi’s façade was never completed, an octagonal sacristy and a columned doorway, the Sacristy, were built to the left of the church building by Giuliano da Sangallo and Simone del Pollaiolo (also known as “Il Cronaca”). Later, to ensure a connection to the Santo Spirito, a door was erected in the chapel.
In 1601, Giovanbattista Caccini and Gherardo Silvani created the Baroque baldachin over the high altar, which included polychrome marbles. The church’s interior remained unadorned until the 18th century, with basic plastered walls. Antonio Manetti and Giovanni da Gaiole finished the church later. Salvi d’Andrea was in charge of the cupola’s construction.
The church has a peculiar history. The Augustinian priory, which was next to the church, was a meeting place for intellectuals: the early humanists met here, and both Petrarca and Boccaccio were frequent visitors. Boccaccio bequeathed his library to the convent. Following the death of his patron Lorenzo il Magnifico, the prior welcomed an 18-year-old Michelangelo and permitted him to dissect and analyze the remains brought to the convent’s infirmary.
Of course, learning about human anatomy was an important component of an artist’s education. Michelangelo fashioned a wooden crucifix that may be seen in the Sacristy for this privilege. Christ is a fragile and languid adolescent, far from the artist’s later forceful figures, but appealing in his frailty.
There are obvious patterns at work inside the church. Clean proportions and geometric motifs, which are common in Renaissance architecture, characterize Brunelleschi’s work. The 38 chapels house many artworks, mostly from the Renaissance period.
Don’t miss Domenico di Zanobi’s “The Madonna del Soccorso” (1485) in the third chapel on the right. It depicts a unique and fascinating subject based on an apocryphal Virgin Mary narrative. It depicts Mary thrashing the devil out of a kid while the mother begs for help on her knees.
Filippino Lippi’s iconic “Madonna and Child with Saints” may be found in the sixth chapel. In the left transept, there are further excellent works. Meanwhile, Raffaellino del Garbo’s “Madonna and Child with Angels and Saints” may be found in the first chapel.
A door on the left side of the façade leads to the exquisite 17th-century cloister. It’s a tranquil setting with a tiny garden in the centre. The tombstones adorn the walls, which are frescoed with scenes from Saint Augustine’s life. You can also see a beautiful “Last Supper” fresco by Mannerist artist Bernardino Poccetti in the refectory.
In the sacristy, you’ll find the beautiful wooden crucifix attributed to Michelangelo.
Free admission to the Basilica. There is a sacristy and cloister admission fee of 2€ /2.3$ p.p.
40. Pitti Palace & the Palatin Gallery
The Pitti Palace, which houses several major museums, was erected in the second half of the 15th century, most likely for Luca Pitti on a concept by Filippo Brunelleschi, but was left unfinished when he died in 1472.
The original structure, which had only five windows on each story and comprised two stories plus the ground floor, was purchased in 1550 by Eleonora da Toledo, the wife of Grand Duke Cosimo I de Medici, and became the family’s official house. As a result, Bartolomeo Ammannati extended and altered it in 1560 and Giulio and Alfonso Parigi at the beginning of the 17th century. Except for the two lateral projecting pavilions built during the Lorraine family’s era and completed during the first half of the 19th century by Paoletti and Poccianti, who also built the Palazzina della Meridiana, added on to the rear section of the palace down looking the garden, the other two architects gave the façade its current appearance.
Giovanni da San Giovanni, Pietro da Cortona, il Volterrano, Antonio Domenico Gabbiani, and Sebastiano Ricci all worked on the interior decoration in the 17th century.
The Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Costume Gallery, the Porcelain Museum, and the Museum of Carriages are now housed in the palace and the Boboli gardens.
The Gallery, on the first floor of the Palace, is named because it is housed the reigning family’s palace and was initially opened to the public in 1828 by the House of Lorraine. It keeps the usual layout of a private collection today, with a luxurious combination of expensive interior decorating and original rich picture frames.
The stairway built by Ammannati leads to the rooms that house the Palatine Gallery. Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669) partially frescoed with an outstanding ornamental cycle them, possibly the most prominent example of Florentine Baroque.
The paintings of Titian and Raphael, which were received by the Medici through the will of Vittoria della Rovere, the last daughter of the Duke of Urbino and wife of Ferdinando II de’ Medici, comprise one of the most important groups of works in the collection.
It also features a comprehensive exhibition of 17th-century European painting, including works by Rubens (The Four Philosophers, The Allegory of War), Van Dyck’s portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio, Giusto Sustermans’ portraits of members of the grand ducal family, Murillo’s Madonna with Child, Caravaggio’s Sleeping Cupid, and other portraits by Frans Pourbus and Velazquez. There are also older pieces by Bronzino, Fra Bartolomeo, Piero del Pollaiolo, and Filippo Lippi, all of which are excellent.
Admission fee: 10€ /11.5$ p.p.
If you’re interested in a small-group guide tour, have a look at this 2-hour tour offered in different languages (English, Spanish, Italian, French, and German)
41. Boboli Gardens
The Boboli Gardens are not just one of Florence’s largest and most magnificent Italian-style gardens, but also one of the city’s most important open-air museums. They served as a model for several European royal gardens, including Versailles.
Niccolò Tribolo drew the initial concept, but several architects completed it after his death in 1550, notably Giorgio Vasari (from 1598 to 1561) and Bartolomeo Ammannati and Bernardo Buontalenti during the reign of Francis I, who succeeded his father Cosimo.
In the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the Medici and Lorraine families beautified and expand the garden. They made the garden more valuable by inserting exceptional decorative complexes, producing an outdoor museum that displayed both Roman and 16th and 17th-century statues, besides adding exquisite meadows, avenues, little trees, and beautiful panoramic views.
The Gardens include a stone “Amphitheatre” with statues based on Roman myths, such as Giambologna’s Fountain of the Ocean, which was moved to another location within the same garden, the small “Grotto of Madama,” the nineteenth-century “Cave of Adam and Eve”, and the “Large Grotto,” also known as the “Buontalenti Grotto” (see next point). At the center of the amphitheater and rather dwarfed by its position, is the Ancient Egyptian Boboli obelisk brought from the Villa Medici at Rome.
You can find other noteworthy works in the region above the amphitheatre. This is where the Fountain of the “Fork” or “Neptune’s Fountain” is located, named for the sculpture in the middle of the fountain by Stoldo Lorenzi that looks to be grasping a gigantic trident. The enormous statues of the “Abundance,” which are positioned on the summit of the hill and were begun by Giambologna to symbolize Giovanna of Austria, Francis I’s wife, can also be found in the park. In 1637, they completed the statue as an allegorical figure.
After passing through the “Prato dell’Uccellare” on our journey to Porta Romana, you come to the “Viottolone,” a vast avenue flanked by cypresses and public statuettes that leads to the “Isolotto,” a big pond begun in 1618.
The “Ocean” fountain, constructed by Giambologna on the island, sits in the center of the pond, encircled by three sculptures symbolizing the Nile, Gange, and Euphrates rivers. The marble groups of Perseus on horseback and Andromeda, whose ankles are bound to the rock, emerge from the ocean around the island. The Giardino del Cavaliere, on the “cavaliere”, or rampart, of the fortifications erected by Michelangelo in 1529, is accessible through a double staircase flanked on either side by two statues of the Muses.
You may get a magnificent view of the “Torre al Gallo” and exquisite private Florentine manors almost hidden behind the lush foliage of the hills from this colorful meadow, which is rich with blossoming roses in May. The structure that houses the Pitti Palace’s Porcelain Museum is next to this garden, and beneath it is a massive water storage facility known as the “trout reservoir,” from which the pipes that supply water to the entire garden emerge. In the 18th century, the Lorraine family added several structures, including the green “Kaffeehaus” with its glazed dome and Zanobi del Rosso’s “Lemon House.” During the same period, the Lorraines entrusted Gaspare Maria Paoletti (1778) with the construction of the Neoclassical Palazzina della Meridiana (or Sun-Dial) next to Palazzo Pitti, which now houses the Pitti Palace’s Costume Gallery. The Prato della Meridiana is a vast, steeply sloping grass in front of this edifice, from which smaller avenues filled with statues branch off.
Admission fee: 6€ /6.9$ p.p.
For a private or small-group guided tour of the Gardens, check out these 2 tours: this one-hour tour in English, Spanish, French, German, or Italian; or this two-hour walking tour in English, French, German, Italian, Russian, or Spanish.
42. Buontalenti Grotto
The Buontalenti Grotto (Grotta del Buontalenti) is ornamented inside and externally with stalactites and was once furnished with waterworks and lush vegetation.
There are two niches on either side of the pillared entrance with sculptures of Ceres and Apollo. The pieces were originally part of Vasari’s nursery and were both made by Baccio Bandinelli. The Medici family coat of arms, as well as plaques depicting zodiac signs, are displayed in the upper band.
Internally, the Grotto is divided into three sections, each containing remarkable examples of Mannerist sculpture.
They frescoed the first to give the impression of a natural grotto, a natural hideaway for shepherds fleeing wild animals. It was once home to Michelangelo’s “The Prisoners,” which are now displayed in the Accademia Gallery. The grotto’s third and farthest chamber houses Giambologna’s famed “Bathing Venus,” while the second part houses Vincenzo de’ Rossi’s “Paris and Helen.” The Duke Francesco I de’ Medici, who commissioned the Grotto, designed these last two chambers to be the perfect backdrop for his furtive, romantic encounters.
Dan Brown picked Buontalenti Grotto for one of the most dramatic sequences in his Inferno because of its enchanting ambiance.
43. Bardini Gardens
The 4-hectare/10-acre Bardini Gardens, once virtually unknown and sometimes empty, were restored to part of its historic splendour in the early 2000s and are now slowly being rediscovered by locals and visitors to Florence.
All of this began as a fruit orchard to provide sustenance for the Mozzi family, who preserved the property in the family until 1880. They altered the gardens under their ownership, adding statues and flowers. They even bought neighbouring property, which included a portion of the Kaffeehaus and the Grotto. Carolath Benten bought everything when Mozzi died, and the garden took on many “Victorian” features.
It wasn’t until Stefano Bardini, the garden’s namesake, took control of the property and villa that it took on its current form. Unfortunately, the medieval elements were lost, but one must admire the changes he made, which have resulted in a unique masterpiece. This unusual mash-up of styles results in a lovely garden to explore.
The gardens were given to his son, who, following his death, passed them on to the city of Florence. This garden, which was just recently reopened to the public following a big restoration project, features brightly coloured azaleas, viburnums, camellias, roses, irises, and 60 species of hydrangea beside a more “functional” garden with a large selection of traditionally Tuscan fruit trees.
The enormous Baroque staircase and the Wisteria Tunnel, both of which lead to the Kaffeehaus and restaurant, are without a doubt the most beautiful parts of the garden. Giulio Mozzi enhanced the staircase created in the seventeenth century with statues and fountains around the end of the eighteenth century. You may have a wonderful view of the city from the panoramic terrace in front of the restaurant. Six fountains with mosaics and a variety of roses and iris flowers, as well as hydrangea and other ornamental plants, are located nearby.
Stefano Bardini also designed the Belvedere loggia, which he developed by extending the two modest Kaffeehaus buildings in the eighteenth century and uniting them with sandstone pillars from Pistoia to provide a majestic conclusion to the stairway scenario.
The Fontana del Drago is at the top of the park and features an Anglo-Chinese garden with a canal running along one side.
Admission fee: 10€ /11.5$ p.p.
44. Piazzale Michelangelo
No matter what time of day you visit, Piazzale Michelangelo always provides a breath-taking view of Florence. It may be a typical tourist destination, yet it never fails to captivate the hearts and minds of those who make their way to the peak.
Many people assume this plaza has been around since Florence’s founding or that Michelangelo designed it. Actually, it is a relatively fresh addition to the list of monuments in Florence, having been built in 1869 by Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi as part of a massive reorganization of the city walls (Florence was the capital of Italy in this period).
Poggi’s opulent terrace is a classic 19th-century design intended to highlight Michelangelo’s masterpieces (at least copies). He proposed a Michelangelo monument base that would house replicas of Michelangelo’s works, including the David and the Medici Chapel statues from San Lorenzo. Poggi planned the hillside building behind the terrace with a loggia as a museum for Michelangelo’s works once the terrace was completed. The building, however, was never used for its intended purpose and now houses the restaurant La Loggia, which has a magnificent terrace.
Tourists, sellers, and a bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David (the original is displayed at the Accademia Gallery museum) throng the piazza today.
45. Rose Garden
The Rose Garden below and to the left of Piazzale Michelangelo, facing the city, is great for taking a break from museums while admiring a magnificent panoramic view of Florence.
The best months to visit are May and June, when the over 350 varieties of roses planted here are in bloom, but there are many other plants, such as lemon trees and a Japanese Garden (added in 1998, the Japanese Shorai Oasis was given to Florence by its twin city Kyoto), that make the garden enjoyable all year.
There are also 12 magnificent sculptures by Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon, which were presented to the city by his widow and installed in the garden in 2011.
Giuseppe Poggi, who also designed Piazzale Michelangelo, planned the garden in 1865.
46. Iris Garden
On the hillside right next to Piazzale Michelangelo, you’ll be able to enjoy a fantastic panorama over the city, over 200 varieties of irises (the city’s symbol), and a touch of “countryside” atmosphere
The Italian Iris Society, which founded and manages the garden, hosts an annual International Competition in May to select the year’s best beautiful iris hybrid. The garden is 2.5 hectares/6 acres and houses a permanent exhibition of Tall and Border Bearded Irises that have been submitted for the International Competition’s many editions. There is a pond where aquatic variations, ornamental plants of various types, spontaneous species, and olive trees can be grown.
47. Abbey Of St. Minias on the Mountain and its Cemetery
Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Abbey Of St. Minias on the Mountain (San Miniato al Monte) is above Piazzale Michelangelo, in one of the highest points in the city, offering a wonderful view of the historic centre.
It is a marvel of Tuscan Romanesque architecture, with a magnificent white and green marble façade with a mosaic depicting St Minias, the Virgin Mary, and Christ in the center, three naves, an elevated presbytery, and a crypt.
The Crucifix Chapel by Michelozzo, with glazed terracotta vaults by Luca della Robbia, and the Cardinal of Portugal Chapel, both decorated by Luca, and possibly also by Andrea della Robbia and Alesso Baldovinetti, are housed in the church, while frescoes depicting the life of St. Benedict by Spinello Aretino can be seen in the sacristy.
The elevated presbytery, which is surrounded by a marble column fence and houses a spectacular 14th century wood choir, is above the crypt, which is said to contain the mortal remains of St. Minias. A beautiful golden mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, the same theme as the one on the front, can be found on the half-round apse above the main altar, dating from 1297.
The entire complex is enclosed by defensive walls, which were erected hastily by Michelangelo during the siege and later enlarged by Cosimo I de’ Medici into a genuine fortress (fortezza) in 1553. The walls now encircle the Cemetery of the Holy Doors (Cimitero delle Porte Sante), a massive ornate monumental cemetery built around the church in 1848. Carlo Collodi (Lorenzini), Pinocchio’s creator, politician Giovanni Spadolini, painter Pietro Annigoni, film producer Mario Cecchi Gori, soprano Marietta Piccolomini, the Vespucci family tomb, painter Ottone Rosai, stylist Enrico Coveri, Pellegrino Artusi, the Fratelli Alinari, and Giovanni Meyer, founder of the Meyer Children’s Hospital are all buried there.
According to legend, the martyr St. Minias was buried on the hill where the church bearing his name currently stands during Decius’ persecution in the third century. Bishop Hilderbrand had the idea of building the basilica and the Benedictine monastery on the place where the saint’s relics were said to have been discovered (and are now housed in the church’s crypt).
48. Stibbert Museum
The Stibbert Museum is located just outside of the city centre in the lovely Villa di Montughi, built by Frederick Stibbert, a collector and Anglo-Italian merchant who lived there in the 1800s.
They turned the collection up to the Municipal Administration in 1906. The museum now has ten rooms dedicated to displaying Stibbert’s diverse collections, which come from all around the world. Many chests from the 15th century, others of Lombard provenance from the 18th century, as well as a remarkable table in malachite from Demidoff, are among the most precious pieces of furniture in the collection. Most of the wall drawings are in leather, which is one of the villa’s most distinguishing features.
Several paintings are displayed in the rooms crammed with opulent things, showing the taste of a collector who did not seem to enjoy primitives and favoured Dutch painting and still lives instead. The museum also houses an extensive collection of portraits from various periods.
Porcelain and majolica, produced in the most prominent Italian and foreign manufactories, are another notable collection of works.
This museum is known for its collection of arms and armours, which includes an extraordinary amount of unique and unusual items dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries. Although there are Oriental, Persian, Indian, and Islamic examples, the vast majority of arms are European. The parade of horses and riders, fully prepared to portray Italian, German, and Islamic armaments and armour suits from the 16th and 17th centuries, is an interesting sight.
It also houses a significant collection of Japanese arms, including dozens of suits of arms and hundreds of swords, which is the largest of its kind outside of Japan.
Architect Giuseppe Poggi re-created the lovely English-style park that surrounds the Villa. As you wander amid the ancient trees, you can’t help but notice the odd Egyptian temple overlooking the lake, which was erected by Stibbert himself, who was obsessed with Egypt. It has a brick entryway that leads down to the pond below, and reliefs and statues of sphinx-shaped sarcophagi embellish it.
The lovely, circular Hellenistic temple, crowned with a dome adorned with colourful tiles, is yet another surprise in the park.
A stable and a greenhouse for lemon trees, called a “Limonaia,” are also located inside the park grounds, where the Museum can host events occasionally.
Admission fee: 6€ /6.9$ p.p.
49. Fiesole hills
On clear days, take a stroll over the hills of Fiesole, a charming village 8 km/ 5 mi north of Florence, and be delighted by the spectacular views of Florence.
Many noble families built their country homes on this hill during the Renaissance. There are now around 30 villas in Fiesole (elegant buildings surrounded by well-tended luxuriant gardens).
50. Villa Demidoff & Pratolino Park
The ancient Medicean Paggeria of Pratolino is now known as Villa Demidoff. The estate at Pratolino was purchased by Francesco I de’ Medici in 1568 and is on the Florentine hills leading into the Mugello valley.
According to legend, Francesco purchased it as a present for his second wife Bianca Cappello, intending to transform it into a fairy-tale home with the help of architect Bernardo Buontalenti. He erected a magnificent Renaissance villa, which sadly no longer exists, surrounded by a wonderland park with water fountains and grottoes, a wonderland park surrounded by gorgeous gardens filled with wonderful plants and flowers, water fountains and grottoes. In Florence, it was a miniature Versailles, a theater of joys, elegance, and leisure.
This was the Medici family’s largest estate, with a magnificent Italian Renaissance garden measuring around 20 hectares/ 49 acres in size, a northern entrance in front of The Fountain of Jupiter, and large stables that were also used by travelers.
When the Medicean villa was destroyed, they transformed the park into a lovely garden, as was customary.
They sold the park to Russian Prince Paolo II Demidoff in 1872, who renovated the property’s buildings and expanded one of the remaining exterior structures into a residence bearing his name. The park was restored, and the layout is still in use today. After 100 years, the Florence Province Council purchased the land in 1981 and converted it into a public park.
The colossal statue of Giambologna’s Colossus of the Apennines is among the Renaissance monuments (1579-80). The Apennines are composed of stone and brick, and had grottoes with paintings and magnificent geometric patterns on the inside at one point. The exquisite Buontalenti Chapel features a hexagonal plan with a loggia in the back, where the last Demidoff princess is buried. Then there’s Buontalenti’s Cupid’s Grotto and Giambologna’s statue at the Mugnone Fountain.
The Maschera Fishpond, used as a pool for hot baths, the big aviary, and the spectacular Jupiter Fountain, which used to be at the entrance to the Medicean park, are all there. These monuments, together with the neoclassical Lodge of Montili, are only accessible by appointment.
Both for local flora and fauna, the park is a notable natural reserve. Several centuries-old trees, such as oaks, English oaks, cedars, and conker trees, can be seen within, and on a calm stroll away from the buildings, it’s easy to spot a few deer, foxes, and hares in the foliage before they flee.
The Pratolino park is now open to the public on weekends and holidays.
With Pratolino Park, this “Top 50 places to visit in Florence, Italy” comes to an end.
I sincerely hope that this series of articles has shed some light on how beautiful Florence is and how many great treasures it hides from the eyes of most. I adore this city, and every time I visited it has been an absolute delight.
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