The Botanical Garden of Florence is the third largest in the world for antiquity. Founded on December 1, 1545 by Cosimo de 'Medici, it is located in the heart of the city center close to the Accademia museum and the church of San Marco.
Giardino dei Semplici History
Il Giardino dei Semplici in Florence is a section of the Natural History Museum of the University of Florence. Since the Middle Ages "simple" (plant varieties with medicinal virtues) were cultivated in various vegetable gardens. The word simple derives from the Latin medi medicamentum or medicine simplex used to define medicinal herbs. Initially it had the name of Horto of the simple. The first botanical garden in the western world was founded in Salerno by Matteo Silvatico, a distinguished physician of the Salerno school between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. He distinguished himself as a connoisseur of plants for the production of medicines. Di Matteo Silvatico is the Liber cibalis et medicinalis Pandectarum, a precious collection of information on the simple, that is, on the plants that were used for the production of medicines.
Here a real educational activity was carried out to show the students of the Medical School the plants with their name and their characteristics. The site has a particular microclimate, favored by the low incidence of the north wind and by the favorable exposure, which even today allows the cultivation or even the spontaneous propagation of plant species demanding in terms of humidity and heat.
Historical documents confirm that this garden was the first botanical garden in Europe for the cultivation and harvesting of simple, medicinal plants for therapeutic purposes. The particular type of design and use of vegetation was then also taken up in the successive botanical gardens of Padua, Pisa, Florence, Pavia and Bologna.
In the sixteenth century, intensifying his interest in the study of the natural world, Duke Cosimo I de 'Medici wanted an academic garden to integrate the lessons of the students of the medical school. The official date of foundation can be set on December 1, 1545, the date of the lease contract signed with the Dominican nuns who ceded their piece of land located in "Cafaggio", near the Medici stables of Michelozzo (today in the Military Geographical Institute ).
The Florentine garden can be considered the third oldest in the world after the Botanical Garden of Pisa and the Botanical Garden of Padua.
It was designed by Niccolò Tribolo and the choice of plants and their arrangement was taken care of by Luca Ghini. The Garden experienced a period of great splendor at the end of the century under the direction of Giuseppe Casabona, able to enrich it with many rare plants. During the seventeenth century, the activity of Paolo Boccone and other botanists and gardeners allowed the garden a certain autonomy, despite the fact that the Botanical Garden of Santa Maria Nuova and the Botanical Garden of Pisa held a scientific role of much greater importance .
It was the great botanist Pier Antonio Micheli who, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, made the garden a center of study and botanical research of international importance, thanks to its numerous relationships with foreign scholars. Founded in 1716 the Italian Botanical Society as recalled by the plaque on the corner with via Micheli. It was in 1718 that he was called by Cosimo III to direct the Botanical Garden. He also took great care in the collection of seeds and dried samples. On the death of Micheli, in 1737, he was succeeded by Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti and then Saverio Manetti, author of the first Index seminum. Passed to the Accademia dei Georgofili in 1783, after the suppression of the Botanic Society, the garden was transformed into an "agrarian experimental garden" and radically redesigned by the abbot Leonardo Frati. Once again became "Garden of the simple" in 1847, under the direction of Antonio Targioni Tozzetti, in 1864 it was opened to the public. The botanist Teodoro Caruel, director from 1865 to 1895, had the greenhouses still existing. At the end of the century it passed to the Royal Institute of Higher Studies, which later became a university faculty, bringing together the botanical sector of the natural history museum in via Romana and the collections of the Boboli Gardens.
The garden was severely damaged by the hail storm of 19 September 2014: it is estimated that 90% of the tree heritage has been lost or damaged, compromising even most of the greenhouses.
It has an area of 2.3 hectares, of which 1694 m² are occupied by greenhouses. The design of the flower beds recalls both the model of the medieval Hortus conclusus dedicated to the cultivation of medicinal and aromatic herbs and the outline of the secret garden of the Renaissance villa.
The main building, which occupies the whole side of via Micheli, houses the offices, the library, a laboratory and the greenhouses. The building, with a rectangular plan, has two large greenhouses as side bodies and the organizational structures in the central area. Five more glass and metal greenhouses are placed in the garden; they are cold or warm greenhouses that house collections of ferns, epiphytic plants, begonias, bromeliads.
From the central building there is access to the terrace, covered by two iron pergolas with climbing roses from which, through a stone stairway, you descend into the garden; the staircase is flanked by two bushes of Feijoa sellowiana and Stranvesia, geometrically pruned. All walkways are paved in gravel while the flower beds are bordered by low stone edges. Also in stone are the benches and the table that are on the hill while the furnishings are made of iron.
In a niche in the wall opposite the entrance to Via La Pira, a marble bust of Esculapio, sculpted by Antonio Gino Lorenzi from Settignano in the second half of the 16th century, is placed.
At the center of the garden is a stone fountain, with a central gush depicting a putto. The tank is about 4 meters in diameter and houses aquatic plants and goldfish.
In addition to the central fountain, with mainly decorative function, there are numerous pools: to the right of the entrance, there is a concrete tank used for water lilies; another four pools are located on the hill and host collections of aquatic plants.
The large greenhouses can be accessed from the garden. Inside there is a small pool and four wet rocks with Philodendron philodendron plants and various hygrophilous plants, among which the Adiantum capillus-veneris.
Il Prato delle conifere is a vast area with lawn, partly flat and partly slightly sloping, with conifers that are notable for their size and age, and bulbous plants with spring flowers.
The flower bed of the Arecaceae is dedicated to the acclimatization in the open air of various species of palm trees.
In the flowerbeds of food plants and medicinal plants are grown plants used for human nutrition and medicinal plants, both spontaneous and naturalized in Tuscany.
The flower bed of the Italian garden houses a small parterre bordered by boxwood Buxus sempervirens, designed to symbolically recall the ancient tradition of the Italian garden.
A small pond bordered by ivy Hedera helix hosts several lotus plants Nelumbo nucifera; in the same area have been built a rock that reconstructs the environment of the Apuan Alps and a coil in serpentine to accommodate the endemic flora of these environments.
The vegetable heritage of the vegetable garden is currently made up of about 9,000 plant specimens.
In the meadow of the conifers, a Taxodium distichum and a Metasequoia glyptostroboides should be noted. Among the oldest plants a cork Quercus suber planted in 1805 by Ottaviano Targioni Tozzetti, then director, and never skewed; and a Taxus baccata rate planted in 1720 by Pier Antonio Micheli. There is also a secular serrated Zelkova.
In the greenhouses there are exotic plants (the Coffea arabica coffee, the traveler tree Ravenala madagascariensis, the Amorphophallus titanum exceptionally flowered in 2002 and twice in 2007, the banana Musa × paradisiac, etc.), and the orchid collections , carnivorous plants, cactaceae, cycads, citrus and others.