Out of town excursion: the Medici Park of Pratolino

Say you've come to Florence attracted by its immense artistic, historical and cultural heritage. Say you've already visited all the museums and churches and photographed all the beautiful panoramic views the city has to offer.
Now add to all this that at this time of the year, days are sunny and getting hotter in the city and the desire to get some fresh air is getting stronger. Where to go to enjoy a bit of nature without completely losing contact with the Florentine atmosphere?
Well, there's only one place that can meet your requirements: the Medici Park of Pratolino.

Villa Demidoff, as it is also known today, with its 20 hectares of meadows, woods, ponds and caves is one of the largest parks in Tuscany, and from 2013 one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Acquired by Francesco I de' Medici in 1568 for his mistress, Bianca Cappello, the beautiful mansion and the gardens were designed by architect Bernardo Buontalenti. With its artificial caves, fountains, water-driven automatons and labyrinths, what is the largest of the Medici estates had gained the name of “Garden of wonders”.
It became renowed in all Europe, so much that the artists and engineers that had worked in the creation of the "wonders" of Pratolino were called to work in Paris, London, Mardid and Prague.
Mintenance of such a residence though, was so expensive that in the XVIII century the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo stopped caring for it, many sculptures were tranferred to the Boboli Gardens and the Villa fell into decline.
The gardens were left to grow wild after the sudden death of Grand Duke Ferdinand III who had took ownership of the place and in 1814 had started a renovation, demolishing the villa and redesigning the gardens in English style.
Almost sixty years later, the property was sold to russian Prince Pavel Pavlovich Demidov, and from the restored remnants of the old building, Villa Demidoff was created.
Eventually, in 1981 the province of Florence bought the estate which is now kept open to the public from April to October.

Though much of the original structure of the residence has been lost, what remains today is still one of the most beautiful places you'll see outside of Florence. The park is a nature reserve: deer, foxes and hares wander freely on the park grounds among centuries-old trees such as oaks, citron trees and horse chestnuts.
The main attraction of the park of Pratolino is probably the spectacular statue of the Colossus of the Apennines, half men and half mountain, created by Giambologna in the second half of the XVI century.
The massive sculpture, symbol of the Apennine Mountains, really is something of extraordinary: seemingly emerging form a little lake, covered in mud, lychens and limestone concretions, the Giant is beatifully rendered and perfectly integrated with the surrounding landscape.
Caves and rooms are carved into the statue's body, inside the head was set a fireplace used to blow smoke out of the giant's nostrils, and behind the back stretched out a laurel maze that unfortunately was removed during one of the renovations.
However, seeing Giambologna's Colossus with your own eyes is not the only reason you should decide to spend a day exploring the green area of Villa Demidoff, much more awaits you. We can garantee you that you won't regret having traveled those few kilometers that separate the park from the center of Florence to absorb the beauty of this magical place on a lovely sunny day.

Getting there by car: take Via Bolognese in the direction of Pratolino, Vaglia. A free parking lot is in front of the entrance.
getting there by bus: from Santa Maria Novella station take the 25A line Via Fiorentina, Pratolino.


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