Located between the well-known tourist attractions Piazzale Michelangelo and Giardino di Boboli you’ll find the lesser-known Villa Bardini with its romantic garden, a jewel that has not yet been discovered by mass tourism.
The garden of Villa Bardini extends over 4 hectares on the Montecuccoli hill in the Oltrarno quarter on the south bank of the Arno. The terraced garden has an entrance near the river in Via dei Bardi but the main entrance on top of the hill can be reached via a steep climb in Costa San Giorgio.
The history of the garden begins as far back as Middle Ages when the Mozzi family owned land and several houses on the hill in the 13th century. Due to financial problems of the family the city of Florence became the owner of the land until part of the property came back in the hands of the Mozzi’s in the late 17th century. The eastern part of the property belonged to Giovan Francesco Manadori at the time, he built Villa Manadora (later called Villa Bardini) which was already famous for the spectacular views it offered of the city. At the beginning of the 19th century, the various gardens were reunited as the Mozzi’s also bought the eastern part of the then owner Luigi Le Blanc who had planted a forest in English-Chinese style.
In 1913 the entire estate was purchased by the antiques dealer Stefano Bardini. His son Ugo was the last private owner of the property and after his death in 1965 the lengthy bureaucratic process of the legacy began that would last until 1996.
Now the villa and its grounds are state property and thanks to the efforts of the Florentine bank Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze it has been made possible to restore the monumental villa and gardens after decades of decay and restore them to their former glory. In 2006 the complex was opened to the public and in the two subsequent years the two museums in the villa, a restaurant and an exhibition space for contemporary art were opened.
I visited the garden in early June under the expert guidance of landscape architect Claudia Mezzapesa who is engaged in the construction and maintenance of the garden.
The terraced garden consists of three different parts: the imposing baroque staircase from the 18th century; the grove landscaped in English-Chinese style with the Dragon canal and finally the more rural area with a fruit orchard and the recently added vegetable garden that provides fresh products for the restaurant located on the property La Leggenda dei Frati.
Just follow the winding path through the garden and discover beautiful panoramas, picturesque vistas and romantic spots. Depending on the season you can enjoy beautiful roses, irises, azaleas, hydrangeas and the spectacular wisteria pergola which it at its best in May.
Also for music lovers Villa Bardini is the right place to be since concerts are organized on a regular basis in the garden. If you prefer to get your hands dirty that’s also possible because in the future courses in gardening and landscape design will be organized.
Click on the photos for a larger view.