Grotta del Buontalenti

Grotta Grande

Useful Information

Location: Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI.
Villa Medicea di Castello, Boboli Gardens, Florence.
(43.766210, 11.251911)
Open: JAN to FEB daily 8:15-16:30.
MAR daily 8:15-17:30.
APR to MAY daily 8:15-18:30.
JUN to AUG daily 8:15-19:10.
SEP daily 8:15-18:30.
OCT daily 8:15-17:30.
NOV to DEC daily 8:15-16:30.
Closed 01-JAN, 25-DEC.
Fee: Adults EUR 6, Youth (18-25) EUR 2, Children (0-18) free, Disabled free, Reservation EUR 3.
Classification: SubterraneaGrotto
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Grotta del Buontalenti, Piazza de' Pitti, 1, 50125 Firenze FI, Tel: +39-055-294883.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1553 construction of Grotta di Madama (Madam's Grotto)
1555 Grotta di Madama completed.
FEB-1557 begin of construction of a reservoir under the direction of Davide Fortini, son-in-law of the architect and sculptor Niccolò Tribolo, responsible for the first design of the Boboli Gardens.
1557 direction of the works passed to Giorgio Vasari.
1583 begin of the transformation of the reservoir into the Grotta Grande by Bernardo Buontalenti.
1583-1584 sculptures by Piero di Tommaso Mati in the first room created.
1586-1587 pictorial decoration of the three rooms by Bernardino Poccetti.
1587 sculptural group by Vincenzo de' Rossi placed in the second chamber.
1592-1593 African green cup, marble shaft, and four satyr figures placed in the third chamber.
1817 Grotta di Adamo ed Eva (Cave of Adam and Eve) built.


The Grotta del Buontalenti, also called the Grotta Grande, is a typical garden grotto of the 19th century, an artificial cave with shells, sculptures, and fountains. It was created by Bernardo Buontalenti (*1536-✝1608). However, unlike others it is mainly an art gallery with some fake stalactites, while most others are just cave replicas or a place to dump all the shells. The most impressive sculpture is a Venere che esce dal bagno (Venus Emerging From Her Bath) created by Giambologna (Jean de Boulogne) (*1529-✝1608). A group of animals was created by Niccolo' di Raffaello de' Pericoli called Tribolo (*1500-✝1550).

The Grotta del Buontalenti is located at the northern end of the Boboli Gardens, beneath the entrance to the Vasari Corridor. This park required a lot of water and so an aqueduct from the Geneva spring to the park was built around 1551. It was intended to bring also water to Palazzo Vecchio, and to make sure there was enough drinking water even during dry summers, a reservoir was created. The architect and sculptor Niccolò Tribolo was responsible for the first design of the Boboli Gardens. His son-in-law Davide Fortini began with this reservoir in February 1557. But in the same year the direction of the work passed to Giorgio Vasari. The reservoir got a façade with Tuscan columns and pilasters supporting an architraved pronaos. The sculptures of Apollo and Ceres, created by Baccio Bandinelli, were placed in two niches.

After the reservoir lost its original function, Grand Duke Francesco I decided to turn it into a grotto. Bernardo Buontalenti directed the transformation of the reservoir into the Grotta Grande. He integrated the architecture of Giorgio Vasari but changed the entire decorative part. Three new walls were constructed, the first chamber was decoreated with sculptures by Piero di Tommaso Mati, and the angoli dei quattro Prigioni (Four Prisons) by Michelangelo were placed in the four corners. Bernardino Poccetti created the pictorial decoration of the three chambers of the grotto. A sculpture by Vincenzo de' Rossi was placed in the second chamber. In the third chamber a tazza di verde africano (African green cup) with a marble column and four satyr statues was placed. After the death of Francesco I, work continued under his brother Ferdinando.

The grotto looks not very cavernous, it's more like a church with artworks. But the first chamber houses a scene which stalactites, stalagmites, tufa rocks, marble and red porphyry mosaic blend together. The porous tufa rocks, which resemble sweet water limestone or travertine, are a basic decoration element throughout the grotto. Also, there are the typical shells and

The park has numerous other grottos which are much smaller, hence the name Grotta Grande. The Grotta di Madama (Madam's Grotto) was created by Davide Fortini between 1553 and 1555. It has a faux rock wall as facade, a barrel-vaulted ceiling with fake stalactites and tufa rock. There are sculptures of animals, like goats and capricorns, cherubs, are by Giovanni di Paolo Fancelli. The cave has a wooden door with the coat of arms of the house of Austria, referable to Maria Magdalena of Austria, the wife of Cosimo II, which is probably the reason for the name Grotta di Madama.

The Grotta di Adamo ed Eva (Cave of Adam and Eve) was built in 1817 after the completion of the new Teatro di Corte. The entrance to the Giardino di Annalena, which opens onto Via Romana, was created, big enough for carriages. During this construction the Palazzina di Annalena, the assistant's house, the entrance gate, and the so-called Grotto of Adam and Eve were built. The grotto was named after the sculpture of Adam and Eve by Michelangelo Naccherino.