The “Grotta del Buontalenti”, located inside the Boboli Gardens of Pitti Palace, commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici, was built, designed and conceived between 1583 and 1593 by Bernardo Buontalenti one of the protagonists of Tuscan architecture in the sixteenth century.
It is an artificial cave filled with false stalactites and stalagmites, with statues of sheep, shepherds and Roman Gods. The cave is one of the finest examples of Mannerist architecture in the city.
The exterior of the cave was created by other great artists of the time. The sides present statues of Ceres and Apollo surmounted by the Medici coat of arms and two figures representing “peace” and “justice.”
The cave has three rooms in the interior.
“Langdon and Sienna were hiding in the first room”, Dan Brown writes in “Inferno”.
The first room of the cave is much larger than the others, and has a decoration with pictorial elements, sculptural and architectural blends giving a sense of wonder and bewilderment.In the second room, smaller, one can admire stalactites, shells and frescoes.
On the side walls are painted Juno and Minerva with two illusionistic niches. In the middle there is a statue representing Paris kidnapping Elen (or Teseo and Ariadne). The third room is set up like a cave, with a fake sky where the birds fly. The room is dominated by the fountain of Giambologna’s bathing Venus.