Saturday, January 2, 2016

Giardino della Gherardesca

Covering 4.5 hectares, this garden is one of the largest private gardens of Florence. Being private, it is not open to the public. Actually it is now part of the Four Seasons, a five star hotel. Still, we wrote to the hotel explaining that we knew the garden was not open to the public, but asked if they could make an exception. Their answer was that we were right, it was not open to the  public. However, if we could set a date, they would give us a time when we would be welcome!

One reason that might have helped us get in is that at this time of the year there was not a soul in that garden (except for two gardeners, one trimming a hedge and the other planting annuals in a formal knot garden). What ever the reason, it was very kind of the hotel staff to let us wander wherever we wanted through the place for an hour.

When we got to the main entrance of the hotel at the set time (2:30 pm), one of the three doormen  said "You are here to see the garden, no? - You are expected, signori," and he had us take a seat in the foyer. It was so luxurious we hardly dare sit down (below is not the foyer  where we waited, but another room of the hotel, which gives an idea of the opulence of the place).

Then Giorgia, the person we had made the arrangements with, greeted us and took us to the garden where she said we could wander (wonder?) as much as we wanted. I asked her if we had to leave through the same door we came in (thinking she would want to know when we left). But no, we could leave through any of the open gates, "our staff has been informed you are here". I then realized that, understandably, for security reasons, our every step must have been monitored on cameras. In fact, why she stepped outside with us for a minute must have been to give the security personnel the opportunity to identify us as the ones allowed in. At the end of the visit, by the service gate from which we left, we had a glimpse of a fellow watching a bank of monitors.

Touring the place, we asked ourselves what was most impressive in that garden. We came to the conclusion it was the maintenance. It is by far the very best maintained garden we have ever seen. Every pot of annuals is fresh, all these gravel alleys are perfectly raked, lawns are magnificent and the shrubs are pruned to perfection.

This hedge actually hides the swimming pool
One particularly interesting feature of the garden is that they have copies of famous sculptures with, next to each one of them, a replica made of barbie dolls, cell phones and other discards made of plastic by sculptor called Dario Tironi.

Here is a close-up.

There are some beautiful old trees, including this mature weeping beech as well as a century-old cedar of Lebanon.

Of course there were many terracotta pots, at this time of the year all filled out with cyclamens. You might wonder about my advice in a previous posts that terracotta pots be emptied in winter to make sure they did not break? I think at the Four Seasons they don't do repair jobs as they do at the Giardino dei simplici, they simply replace. I would guess the Four Seasons has a large pot budget. 

There was one incongruous thing, a statue of the sacred heart under an arch was surrounded by at least 5 stark naked bronze beauties in lascivious poses. It hints about different periods in the history of the garden.

Something close to a nativity scene, meant I suppose to be non-denominational.

There was at least one temple and several fountains. A whole post could be given over to the very attractive modern sculptures in the garden.

Here is something I believe you can only see in a place like Italy.At one point we noticed  stone steps made with recycled stones, nothing special there. What is special if that these stones must have been part of a monument as they still bear the writing that was carved on them in a previous incarnation!

It is a strange feeling when the gates have closed behind you to find yourself back in the street again. The contrast is striking with hundreds of honking cars, scooters and pedestrians, when just on the other side of that wall and gate, you have seen how, as the French poet Baudelaire puts it, "Là tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté, luxe, calme et volupté."  (Over there, all is calm, orderly, luxurious, beautiful and voluptuous).


  1. What a fascinating place. And what a privilege. I love the reclamation statues.

  2. Maintenance makes a big difference!

  3. Not a bad life. I wouldn't mind a long weekend getaway, I'll have to clear the appointment book and call up the car for a ride to the airport ;)

  4. You will be pleased to know that while you are there for your getaway weekend, the hotel can arrange for a personal tour of the Ferrari museum. As they say in the advertising: This may be just the inspiration you need to acquire a Ferrari of your own!

  5. Amazing, I could do with help like that! Love the modern sculptures, they would fit into our gardens better than Greek or Roman Gods!

  6. Wonderfull ,Happy New Year,
    Best regard from Belgium. " blog my city Mons in Belgium"

  7. Wonderful!! I would imagine that the Four Seasons is beyond a gardeners budget, even with a company name such as Four Seasons themselves?

  8. Oh yes, I noticed your observation of the quiet gated garden vs. the lively street activity. When my son studied in Florence, we went to visit him. The villa he lived in for a semester had a beautiful private garden that was very quiet, and then back outside the streets were louder. Interesting effect. This garden you've shared is amazing. You were fortunate to be able to tour it!

  9. Happy New Year! Oh my goodness! Lucky you to visit Italy! I would love to go to Florence someday. How nice to be given special permission to see this garden. I love the fact that the garden is not trapped in the past and think that the modern art piece is such fun.

    1. Happy New Year to you too Jennifer. It is a beautiful place.

  10. I thought that you had disappeared from the blog world Alain, and then I found this post in my spam. So that' s where you have been hiding. How wonderful to get a chance to see round this secret garden. I love Florence, it is one of my favourite places and I didn' t know this garden existed. Lovely to have a peep at it.

  11. Well I was on blogging holidays for a while!
    Florence turns out to have a great many gardens and green areas. Many more than I thought. But many are private and are rarely opened or never opened at all.

  12. Happy New Year Alain !
    This was an amazing tour and you must have felt a little privileged for them to let you wonder through the gardens .. some how calling them gardens doesn't seem to fit their description .. they are beyond what we consider gardens .. thank you for dropping by my blog and I can't wait to sprinkle those pretty Shirley poppy seeds you sent me in my own garden : ) Thank you again so much !

  13. What a privilege to see what lies beyond those big gates! It looks like a very sumptuous place to stay, and how lovely to be able to stroll through the grounds at will. They are, as you say, beautifully maintained. We were in Florence last spring, but I had no idea about this hidden treasure.

  14. How great to be able to see that! The statues look so interesting and so varied. I just love how they have copies made of plastic items. I wonder if they have functions in the garden at all. It would make for such an elegant venue.

  15. Lovely! Thanks for sharing your wonderful captures of these gardens and statues.

  16. Hello, Alain. I hope all is well for you and yours and you are still keeping up with Roche Fleuire Garden.


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