Most people come to Italy with must-do lists. For Myra, this including visiting several Italian gardens. On a recent spectacular day, we hopped on the train to Florence and went to the Bardini Gardens.
The Bardini garden date back to the 1400s, and as with most things that old, has seen many changes over the years. It fell into disrepair and neglect in the 20th century and was only recently reclaimed by conservation groups and opened to public in 2006. It’s in the Oltrarno area (across the Arno) and has views of Florence that will knock your socks off. Its neighbor is the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens, so you know it’s in a quite sophisticated area. The garden has three sections – the English garden with strong Asian influences, the Italianate garden with it’s massive stone staircase flanked by statuary, and the agricultural garden with fruit trees and a dramatic wisteria pergola.
Good to Know
We took a cab from the train station to save our energy for the garden. The cab driver asked us if we wanted to be let off at the upper entrance or the lower entrance. We told him we’d never been there before and didn’t know. If you’re ever asked this question, always choose the high ground. He dropped us off at the lower entrance and we bought our tickets and started climbing up. And up. And up. We finally made it to the garden and were rewarded with incredible views of Florence on one side and the garden on the other.
For me, the crowning jewel of the garden was the wisteria pergola, which was in full bloom on this magnificent May day. It is lined with hydrangeas, which were starting to show their buds, so I’m sure in a month or so when the wisteria blooms are gone the hydrangeas will dominate. Italian gardens are not usually heavy on flowers and blooming plants. They are manicured green spaces with a great deal of structure and statuary. I love that this one had different elements and provided a more rounded sensory experience. At the top of the garden is a loggia which is now a restaurant offering snacks and drinks to enjoy while gazing at one of the most wonderful views of Florence.
Florence. It’s such a beautiful city and seeing it from this perspective really makes it come alive. It’s hard to imagine what this place was like in the 1400s, but it’s always sobering to me think that whoever called it home then was around when the Renaissance was just getting started. How could they know that they were living in a time that would change the world?
We worked up quite an appetite while touring the garden and as luck would have it the clock said it was time for lunch. Our grand plan was to have lunch and then visit the Bargello museum before taking the train back. I found a Slow Food restaurant near the Bargello and we took a cab over to it. Florence is city that has thousands of restaurants, some fabulous and others not worth the calories. The best way to find a place is by word of mouth or a trusted source. My Slow Food app has never disappointed me, so I had high hopes for Cinto Cucina in Torre.
I have to say that it was a little disappointing. The food was good, not great, although there were a few standout dishes. The service, however, was terrible. Very polite and friendly, but slow, slow, slow. Maybe they thought that Slow Foods means slow service. They were also insistent that we order our side dishes and appetizers first, then main courses. And that’s how they brought the food out. Myra’s side order of spinach came out with Steve’s appetizer and my salad. Then a very long wait between courses. So long that we were the last people in the restaurant and we watched as time clicked away our opportunity to visit the Bargello. Sometimes even a trusted source can get it wrong.
A Great Day
We’ll go back another day to visit the Bargello, determined to check all the boxes on Myra’s must-do list. It’s so easy to get to Florence from our house that running over for a day is not a problem. Back at home, we had happy hour on the terrace until the rain came and drove us inside. Then we grazed on what was easy to grab, really not hungry but needing a nibble. Relaxed, happy, and back home after a wonderful day touring a Renaissance garden in one of the greatest cities in the world.
We’ve decided to keep planning to a minimum and let the days unfold spontaneously. See what the weather is like and see what we are like. Sometimes we venture out and some days we stay around Anghiari. It’s a relaxed pace and it suits us. Best of all, Myra seems very happy with it. Italy is revealing itself to her on a personal level and she is connecting with it. What more can you ask of a vacation?