To be honest, I’m the first one to admit that I had no clue what Forte Belvedere was all about until the infamous nuptials of America’s sleaziest couple. All I had ever heard was that the Fort had been closed up until fairly recently due to a few untimely deaths scattered around the premises, which wasn’t enough to get my interest piqued. However, that being said, I’m about to admit something that I rarely do–I was wrong.
Like, stupid wrong. Because Forte Belvedere is one of those incredible gems in Florence that everybody should see.
Thankfully, the timing of my parents’ visit also happened to coincide with a day that my friend Stronza (the Italian word for “Asshole”–she has a real name but we never use it) was working at Belvedere, so she convinced me to bring them up for what she promised was “the best view of Florence in the entire city.” Bold claim, Stronz–so of course I had to see if she was just making crap up or telling the truth.
We took a taxi from my house up and around the hills surrounding the Oltrarno, thoroughly confusing my parents (“Are you sure we’re still in Florence?” my stepmom asked me at one point) as we were dropped off outside a nondescript metal gate at the entrance to the Fort. After assuring them that we were not in fact being taken into the hills to be robbed and murdered, we entered the courtyard of the imposing fortress and hiked up a sharp incline of steps to reach the top official entrance. After being greeted by Stronz and given our tickets to roam around the grounds, we walked out across the grassy knoll leading to the edge of the horizon and were greeted by this disgusting view:
Seriously, I almost threw up. IS THIS REAL LIFE?
Located on the highest hill at the edge of the Boboli Gardens, the Forte Belvedere has got some pretty cool history as well as the external wow factor. Apparently the Fort was built by Bernardo Buontalenti between 1590-1595 by order of the Medici family (not that it means anything to me, art history just goes right over my head but I hear Buontalenti was a pretty important dude, so props to him). It’s also where Galileo used to go look at the sky and be all smart and astronomical and stuff, and was an integral part of protecting the city’s Oltrarno area from rabid pirates and crazy folk.
After walking around taking an obscene amount of pictures, we headed up to the bar and grabbed a couple of cocktails and hung out just enjoying the view before walking back down along Costa San Giorgio and into the center of town. While I didn’t actually even enter the Fort itself (which hosts a WWI museum among other contemporary art pieces and exhibitions throughout the season) I was absolutely stunned by this beautiful piece of Florentine history and now have a great excuse to go annoy Stronz at work.
How to get to Forte Belvedere:
Walking (only if you’re reasonably in shape, cause it’s a bitch of an uphill climb) from the Ponte Vecchio takes about 20 minutes up Costa San Giorgio, or if you’re lazy like me just take a taxi (average cost €12). Just be warned that while taxi drivers will take you there gladly, they’re not so happy to actually come pick your ass up so be prepared to walk back down from the Fort.
For more info on opening times and ticket prices, click here.
Walking up from the main area of Florence is no hassle and a great walk because you also stumble upon the rose garden which was beautiful and quite popular in the evening. The fort is a much quieter place than Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy a beautiful vista of Floence plus a very civilised glass of wine! There is a small entrance fee which I was amazed to hear one tourist actually question why, to the ticket office! Oh well he missed out!