The Giant of the Apennines

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It is true. We at Farfalla di Toscana are trying to discover the part of Tuscany which stretches from Pistoia to the sea (and beyond). Sometimes, though, there are irresistible itineraries from Pistoia going up in the other direction.  Therefore, sometimes, only sometimes, it seems fair to consider the beauty which lies “across the border”, too.

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Already last year I was hearing about the Giant of the Apennines, a photo of which had struck me so much that I absolutely wanted to see it. The presentation of the restored statue was planned for the end of April 2015, so I marked this date on my agenda.

And so, on the first of May we departed for the Parco Mediceo di Pratolino in Vaglia/Florentine.  From Florence to our destination, the GPS guided us along narrow streets which were almost always bordered by dry walls built without mortar or cement, assembled painstakingly from rocks of different size).

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Perhaps it was the strong ability necessary to raise these truly extraordinary walls,  or perhaps it was due to the breathtaking views on the sweet and rolling Florentine landscape, or perhaps it was the generous, almost opulent, blooming flowers everywhere; but, at least for me, I felt a certain shiver down my spine, maybe out of respect for this marvelous land which gave the world such artists as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo; Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio.

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We were ready to admire The Giant. Although aware that it was made not by a great Florentine artist but by Jean de Boulogne, better known as  Giambologna, we were certain that, if one of Florence’s most powerful families had engaged him to embellish what would later take the name of “Park of Marvels”, there must have been a good reason for them to do so.

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The weather conditions were not ideal since, no sooner had we passed through the (free) entrance, it began to rain ever so slightly; moreover, we were drawn immediately to an avenue which was guarded to its left by a row of large trees and to its right by hundreds of irises, the symbol of Florence.  The road lead downhill directly to the front of the Giant:  enormous, majestic, handsome (with a black cloth around its arm, a sign of mourning for the destruction of historical patrimony in the Middle East). I could not help but photograph it a thousand times, from near and from afar, from bottom to top, from every possible angle, so as not to miss even the smallest detail; such was the impact that the statue, made from masonry and covered with plaster and stone, had on me.

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I would have simply remained there all afternoon; but seeing that we were already there, it seemed correct to honour the other beauties on display in the park.  Currently many sites are being restored, but already such names as “Viale degli Zampilli”, “Grotta di Cupido”, “Peschiera della Maschera” or “Grotta del Mugnone”, together with some statues which were saved from the furies of the weather (and from humanity), are testimony to the importance that this place, at once incredibly gorgeous, magnificent, and superb, must have had on its visitors in the past.

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Everything in the park is enormous:  the houses, the terraces, the lawns, the avenues, and the trees, many of which are over hundred years old. One understands perfectly how important it was to show wealth and power, which perhaps is still in vogue with certain circles.

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The atmosphere is benevolent:  the soul can find peace for rebalancing itself, the mind can slow down its mad rush of thoughts, and the body has an opportunity to slow its pace.

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All of a sudden, there weather worsened: it was time to leave the noble families whose lives are intertwined with the story of the place, and return to our car, but not without admiring an enormous kind of diamond supported by a solid iron structure that we had noticed as soon as we arrived. Inside the sphere are solar panels which, I think, will allow the park to be self-sufficient in its energy needs.

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Along with Francesco de’ Medici, the famous Bianca Cappello, for which the property was acquired, the Grand Duke Ferdinando of Lorraine, and the prince Paolo Demidoff, we salute the guardians of “Pratolino”:  friendly, professional and…Tuscans; how lucky they are.

Anneliese Rabl (translation John McAuliffe) x

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4 thoughts on “The Giant of the Apennines”

  1. Grazie, ci fa piacere leggere questo articolo veritiero e ben scritto sul parco. Ne approfitto per informare che sabato 20 giugno 2015 grande serata per inaugurare l’illuminazione notturna del Gigante, eventi già dal pomeriggio.
    Buon lavoro e un saluto dal Parco di Pratolino!

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