Today, our horticulture class took a trip to the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Attached to a former residence of the Medici family, the gardens are full of statues, water fixtures, and horticulture. One of the most interesting sections of the gardens was the Buontalenti Grotto. Built in the 1500s, the Medici family commissioned this grotto as a part of their garden. Builders would often achieve such a natural look by using real limestone concretions that were taken from actual caves.
This grotto reminded me of our previous class lecture where we discussed common features in Renaissance gardens. One of these common features was the grotto. This particular grotto is of the Mannerism style. The Mannerism style was characterized by nooks, crannies, fantastical figures, and unusual uses of water. Although the picture can’t possibly do the real experience justice, we can see that the foundation of the grotto looks fairly normal, but it is layered over with pieces of unusual limestone formations that seem to drip from the walls and intricate mosaic designs. The inside of the grotto has a beautiful painting on the ceiling, with water fixtures lining the floor.
I thought this grotto was one of the most interesting parts of our entire visit. It was easy to imagine members of the Medici family coming to the grotto to cool down during the hot season. It was also easy to imaging the great lengths the builders went to in order to construct such a unique garden feature. The grotto transported us all back to a time when powerful Italian families were able to create these huge, magnificent gardens for their relaxation and viewing pleasure. We were all Medicis for a day when we visited the Boboli Gardens!