A Secret Garden Opens at Boboli

For the first time ever, a garden of camellias hidden in the Boboli Gardens for centuries is open to the public. The Uffizi and Tuscan region spent almost 900,000 euros to restore the small green area that was first created in the mid-17th century.

Commissioned by Prince Mattias de’ Medici, the younger brother of Grand Duke Ferdinando II de’ Medici, the Camellia Garden was next door to his apartments. The secret garden, which can be found in the shadow of the wall that separates Palazzo Pitti from the Boboli, is said to have been the prince’s love nest. A cave at the front of the garden is the most secret part of the garden, inconspicuous to unwanted visitors and wandering eyes.

Located between the south wing of Palazzo Pitti and the wall of the Meridiana building, the garden acted as a connecting space for the private apartments of Prince Mattias de’ Medici and the Boboli Gardens. The rich history of the delicate garden, linked to the family which ruled Florence for three centuries, makes it immensely more significant than the average garden.

In the beginning, the garden housed rare and exotic plants. It wasn’t until the 19th century that these rarities and citrus varieties were replaced by what is now growing in the garden today: camellias.

Not only does the newly accessible green space feature beautiful camellias, but it also has an artificial grotto, frescoes and water features such as fountains and water jets. Not used to filter water anymore, the holes in the cave’s floor – which detours strangers from the garden – are now filled with spotlights that are used to illuminate ancient frescoes within it.

The Camellia Garden suffered from malfunctioning drainage and a poor water system for many years, which is why it required so much work to fix up. It wasn’t until 2021 that the Uffizi Galleries with the region of Tuscany to finance restoration of the area, which is finally complete.

No reservations need to be made to visit the garden in the months of April and May. Guests will be accompanied by guides (tours take place on the hour at 11 am, 12 noon, 1, 3, 4 and 5 pm) as they walk through the elegant garden, open Tuesday to Sunday. Only 15 people will be allowed on each tour. For more information on the Garden of the Camellias, click here.

(Parker Hurley)