A 25-minute drive due north of Florence along via Fiorentina, the Pratolino Medici park became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.
The main draw is the Colossus of the Apennines, a brooding sculpture carved by Giambologna between 1579 and 1580, which originally appeared to emerge from the vaulted rock enclave that once surrounded the impressive figure.
To please his Venetian mistress Bianca Cappello, Francesco de’ Medici commissioned his court architect, designer and engineer Bernardo Buontalenti to design the villa and gardens, who completed the construction between 1569 and 1581. Although the villa and its fountains were kept in repair, it became deserted after Francesco’s death, and in the 18th century some of the sculptures were removed to adorn the extension of the Boboli Gardens. Grand Duke Ferdinand III decided to demolish the villa and have the gardens redesigned in the English romantic style. In 1872, the complex was sold to Prince Pavel Pavlovich Demidov, who restored the pages’ lodgings. The property was subsequently inherited by Prince Paul of Yugoslavia before it was purchased by the Province of Florence—now the Metropolitan City of Florence—which maintains the park.
Popular with families, Pratolino is crisscrossed with woodland trails for hikers and Nordic walkers as well as nature lovers who can spot wildlife and flower species in the pristine natural habitat.
A favourite picnic spot, the park reopens on April 5 and is open daily from 10am to 8pm. (In October the park will close at 6pm.)
Parco Mediceo di Pratolino
Via Fiorentina 276, 50036 Pratolino
By car/taxi: 25 minutes along the SR65
By bus: catch the 307A from piazza della Libertà
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This article is in collaboration with www.cittametropolitana.fi.it