The Bardini garden is the place of history, and its roots, beyond its owners, are European. Each garden is an example of an interpretation of the world, where past, present and future are simultaneous in receiving the memory of the ancient world.

The Bardini garden has offered us the possibility of a unique challenge. It was a public property, and it has been restored after about forty years of abandon sponsored thanks to a private Fondazione Bancaria (Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze). Utilizing garden archaeology on place, historical researches and also studying the place itself it has been possible to assess and to interpret the garden. The works lasted six years and now the garden is open to the public, that’s why we have worked also for the presentation of the garden to the public, to let visitors discover the beauty of the place and seven century of Florentine history.

Restoring the Bardini garden was a task particularly rich in specificity because it was both conservative restoration as well as the outcome of a process of interpreting a place which has been abandoned.

The Bardini garden is located in the centre of Florence, where it occupies most of the district of Oltrarno, with a surface of 4 hectares distributed on a 70 meter slope plunging towards Arno and towards the city like a true panoramic terrace. It thus presents an exceptional and unique situation: the garden represents a part of the town of Florence and also a piece of urban history. The name of the garden derives from the last owner, Stefano Bardini, a famous and rich antiques dealer from the beginning of the last century; but throughout the centuries the garden has had several owners, such as the Mozzi family.

The garden is now a state-owned property, hence public property, as a result of a donation to the state on behalf of Ugo Bardini, Stefano’s son. The history of this transition is very complex and very long, and it reached its conclusion only at the end of the nineties, with the handing over to the Foundation Parchi Monumentali Bardini-Peyron, created by a banking foundation (Ente Cassa di Risparmio) in order to manage and to finance the work of restoration of the park. Now we organize in the garden special courses or master classes on garden restoration as well conferences about garden themes.

The History of the Garden Work on preliminary research was initiated in 1998. It consisted in preparing a chronology and gathering an iconographic series of the main representations of the garden throughout centuries. Moreover, while following the urban cartography one can rebuild the successive stages of the development of the garden. The current property joined three parts, which have had various owners throughout the centuries; it should be emphasised that there existed the Mozzi palace at the back towards Arno and the Bardini villa (known initially as villa Manadora, from the seventeenth century, the work of Gherardo Silvani).

Elements of the Garden

The garden is divided into three parts:

  • English wood in the west
  • the baroque staircase in the centre
  • the agricultural part in the east

The main stages of data acquisition for the implementation of the project are schematically founded on:

  • history and chronology;
  • inventory and archiving of vegetation;
  • inventory of art works;
  • choice of the project and general document or master plan regarding the lines of intervention.

In the master plan shows the major lines of the project:

  • to preserve everything that exists in the garden up to the last modifications of Stefano and Ugo Bardini, the son;
  • to transform the garden into a new garden open to the public, which must play a new role, while respecting the historicity of the place;
  • to create new elements of interest by introducing new parts and new plantations and to preserve environmental diversity by following an ecological criterion with regard to the exploitation of resources.

Concerning the vegetation, the goal is to recreate the collections of plants, such as the azalea collection, which was well known. But not only that; i.e., the project envisages the addition of new collections of fruit trees following the Tuscan tradition, as well as collections of camellias, viburnum, hydrangeas, wisteria, and rose trees of various species.

From a conceptual point of view, one will find the identity of the garden emphasising the antiques collections present in the garden, the art objects from various epochs, while also making recognisable the decoration phases, which, during the centuries, have given the garden a specific character: the baroque, romantic, and eclectic phases. It is a question, so to speak, of displaying the eclectic antiques culture from the beginning of the century, while also taking time to make readable the other phases, equally interesting and rich for a detailed reading of the complexity of a place.

The lines of the project result in the almost integral conservation of the English wood and of its artworks, sculpture groups, fountains, and fabrics. Concerning the central baroque staircase, the choice of the project was directed towards the reconstruction of the lost architecture (because of the demolition of the east wall) by way of the new proposal for a scenography space, which has been rebuilt with the plantation of a vegetal wall in the east, privileging the very strong architecture that one much appreciates in Lungarno. The part at the bottom of the staircase is conceived as a flower garden with collections of iris and dahlias.

The agricultural has been completely replanted to obtain a typical orchard in the Tuscan tradition in order to exploit a dug part; a theatre has been modelled in the ground, to recover the tradition of theatre and music in the garden.

The project is thus founded on the essential knowledge for an informed choice of the “genius loci” and of the history of the garden, but it is not only a question of restoring: the project will insert new vegetal and architectural elements into the garden. This operation finds its legitimacy because the garden has been abandoned for forty years and has lost specific characters, which should be added.

Text: Mariachiara Pozzana