At first glance, the Botanical Gardens of Florence are underwhelming. For a historical garden that was started in 1545 by a member of the Medici family, the Botanical Gardens falls short of possessing a certain pizazz that makes the Boboli Gardens, Isola Bella, and others like them so fantastic as soon as a visitor walks through the gates. However, if a visitor spends a bit more time exploring the eleven-acre garden, he discovers the subtle details that make gardens so appealing.
The garden presents a visitor with three choices upon entry: turn left, turn right, or go straight. The obvious straight path ends at a small fountain and has several species of colorful flowers on either side along the way. Upon reaching the fountain, however, the garden loses its direction and forces the visitor to decide what to do. At this point, there appears to be only trees and shrubs in every subsequent direction, but a little exploration will lead to small, exotic worlds. In one direction, there rests a tiny stone cottage among a cluster of carefully placed rocks in the shade of a small tree. In another direction looms a bamboo forest. In another, carnivorous plants patiently wait for their next prey to fall into their snare. And still another direction holds sustenance for a weary traveler in the form of a citrus fruits and a water fountain. For ages, small worlds like this have inspired kings, artists, and everyone in between to use their imagination to form an ideal, pristine world. At the Botanical Gardens of Florence, one visitor might walk by the stone cottage and imagine that it houses fairies. Someone might enter the bamboo forest and remember Marco Polo’s epic journey to China. For the romantic and the realist alike, gardens, no matter the simplicity, provide a looking glass into the utopia that man has always dreamed of.