There are plenty of gorgeous views over the city of Florence, such as that from Piazzale Michelangelo, but the one from Florence’s Rose Garden (giardino delle rose) in late Spring is one worth writing about. Since 2011, the park has been home to 12 works by the Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon, who passed away in 2005 and whose works were donated to the city by his widow.
Although Folon has not received particular critical acclaim, and thus the City of Florence at first did not want to accept this donation, the permanent exhibition of Folon sculptures at the Rose Garden is a huge gift to the city and its people. The garden, previously only open in the month of May when the roses bloomed, is now open year-round, and is enjoyed not only by tourists, but by residents, who find this a wonderful place to read a book or have a picnic. But most of all, the sculpture is marvelously integrated within the landscape of the park and the view of the city.
A suitcase with a boat is a lyrical invitation to take a photo and take away the city with you, while a sleeping cat seems to invite hipsters to read books of poetry while reclining against it in the sun.
Reading books is the perfect activity in this park – the artist himself highly recommends it.
A symbol of hope looks up from his position a fountain, while one of Folon’s typical trench-coated men considers the sky and the cypress trees silhouetted against it.
Sometimes you have to search a bit to spot a cat-bird, or a bird man, or a flower-pot head.
In the Renaissance, different artistic styles and topics were appreciated in different locations. The art for your country house was different from that of your city palazzo, and a sculpture for a fountain in your garden was certainly different than a sculpture that you’d put outside your city hall. The whimsical forms, rounded shapes and textured surfaces of Folon’s bronzes are a modern ideal of garden sculpture. They are works that are meant to live outside and dialogue with their surroundings, and they do so perfectly here.
Giardino delle Rose
Open daily, year round, 9am to 7pm. Free.
Access by the stairway down from Piazzale Michelangelo