I visited the Boboli Gardens before I left for Rocca Imperiale last week, but I never got to upload my pictures. The park is located behind the Pitti Palace (which I still need to visit) and is decorated by sculptures from the 16th through the 18th century.
However beautiful the sculptures and the foliage were, what truly blew me away was the Grotta del Buontalenti (“Cave of Buontalenti”). Although begun by Giorgio Vasari, it was mainly built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593. I didn’t even know about it before I went to the Gardens, so its cave-like exterior caught my eye and surprised me as I was headed for the exit of the park. It features spongy concretions similar to stalagmites on either side of the entrance…absolutely breath-taking.
The interior is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever seen. The walls are covered in rocks, stalactites, sponges, and shells carved by plasterer Peter Mati. At first glance, all you see is chaos! Then anthropomorphic and zoomorphic creatures and figures begin to stand out…the four corners of the first room house Michelangelo’s four Prisoners (which are now replaced by copies, which I don’t even understand how someone could copy this type of sculpture). The ceiling is painted by Bernardino Poccetti with an oculus in the center for light. The second room is decorated the same way; at the center is Vincenzo de’ Rossi’s Paris and Helen made in 1560. The last room is also laid out like a cave, with the Venus fountain by Giambologna in the center. The entire structure of this “cave” is a must-see if you are in Florence.