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Love legends - The Legend of the Boboli Gardens

Imagine a garden lined with cypress trees, colorful blooms and larger than life Greek statues, with many paths that lead to countless adventures. A turn here may take you to a stunning fountain with crystal clear water, a turn there may take you to an amphitheater. Another turn may take you to a lake with a small island in the middle, quite unexpected in the vast greens of this secluded garden. All paths lead to the top of the gardens and provide you a wondrous view of the most romantic city in the world.

A place of pure imagination? No, this place really exists. Welcome to the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy.


The Boboli Gardens were created by Cosimo I de' Medici, the Duke of Florence in 1537 and later the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The generations of Medicis makes them the most famous family in Florence, though Cosimo I's family in particular is known for the construction of the Boboli Gardens and another, less enchanting rumor that has persisted for centuries, a rumor of violence and death.

In 1562, two of Cosimo's sons and his wife died one after the other, and the official statement released by the Medicis was they had died of malaria. Still, gossip mongers exchanged stories of how the Medicis' 16 year old son Garcia had murdered his 19 year old brother Giovanni after an argument. Even at a young age, Giovanni was a Bishop of Pisa, later inducted as cardinal by Pope Pius IV at the age of seventeen. Angered by the loss of his esteemed son, Cosimo is said to have killed Garcia in anger. Driven mad over the death of her two sons, Eleonora, the Duchess of Florence, died from grief a week later.

This legend persisted throughout the centuries, until advanced forensics recently investigated the exhumed remains of Eleonora, Giovanni and Garcia Medici, discovering that they did, indeed, die of malaria. Although Cosimo was known as a tyrant, he was also known to love his wife Eleonora very much.

Eleonora was the daughter of the Spanish viceroy and her marriage to Cosimo was a political arrangement, but the fondness of Cosimo for his wife was real. He pandered to her desires and luxuries as she championed his causes and policies. Not only was she a beautiful wife and mother of his eleven children, Eleonora was granted privileges that other leaders' wives were not allowed, such as active participation in government affairs.

She was a patroness of the arts and supervised programs to uplift the conditions of farmers. And when Cosimo went abroad, he left the city of Florence in her care, appointing her as regent. No women of that era had as much power as Eleonora did.

So great was his love for his wife that Cosimo I had the Boboli Gardens built for her. He specified for it to be a garden that would be as beautiful and enduring as Eleonora was beautiful and enduring, a garden for lovers, and a garden from which you could see all of Florence -- which is really what Cosimo's gift to Eleonora was, after all: the most romantic city in the world.

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