This month has brought visitors from England and with them an excuse to revisit and marvel at the beauty of nearby Florence. Whist the crowds head to the viewing area at Piazzale Michelangelo to take in the city’s skyline, we escaped the chaos and sought refuge in one of my favourite spots in the city. Perched on the hillside above Florence, directly under the Piazzale, Il Giardino delle Rose is an oasis of calm with spectacular views of the city.
The walled, terraced rose garden was designed by Giuseppe Poggi in 1865 and restored a couple of years ago. The garden contains a number of types of plants (1000 botanical varieties) including lemon trees, waterlilies and a recently added Japanese garden. The main attraction, however, are undoubtedly the 350 varieties of (mainly old) roses. When in bloom, the array of climbers, ramblers, shrub roses and more fill the garden with a heavenly fragrance.
The garden is free to visit and has a pleasingly relaxed atmosphere, with Florentines and tourists alike sprawled on the grass sunbathing, reading and picnicking.
Since 2011 the garden has hosted a permanent exhibition of gently-surrealist statues by the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon, who fell in love with Florence as a young man and whose widow bestowed a collection of bronzes on the city on his death.
Since the installation of the Folon statues, the rose garden is open year-round from 9am to dusk. By our visit in the second week of June some of the rose blooms had faded, and swollen hips were already forming on some of the bushes – in May the garden would be absolutely spectacular, and a visit could be combined with a visit to the garden’s sister space, the nearby Giardino dell’Iris, which opens for one month a year.
Regardless of the season, however, the rose garden must be one of the most peaceful and relaxing places in Florence, with views which are only rivalled by those from Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato, both of which are just above the rose garden. The steep climb to the garden is well worth it, and can be eased (or rewarded on the way down) with a visit to a bar or gelataria in the relaxed Oltrarno neighbourhood.