Just in time! The symbol of Florence– the iris, il giglio, la fleur de lis- is blooming now at the Iris Garden (Giardino dell’Iris) in the heart of the Tuscan city. If you’ve never visited, now is the time to take advantage of the COVID measures being lifted. The Garden opened on May 9th and will be open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. Let’s find out what makes this garden so special.
It was founded in 1954 to host Florence’s first international iris competition and has been “wowing” visitors ever since. Over 1,500 varieties of the exquisite flower from all parts of the globe bloom between April and May every year.
Since the first competition in 1954, there have been 58 total competitions. Hybrids are sent from all over the world and are cultivated in the garden for a total of three years before they can compete. Entries are anonymous so that the jury can be completely impartial when it comes time to judge. The first prize winner receives a gold florin and another winner is selected for the iris that most resembles Florence’s famous giglio.
The Symbol of Florence
So why is the giglio the symbol of Florence? There are various theories supporting the idea that the flower probably dates back to Roman times and the goddess Flora. Other theories suggest that it is simply because the iris grows naturally in the area. There is evidence that the Ghibelline family began using it as a symbol on its flag as early as the 11th century and it officially became the symbol of the Republic of Florence in 1251. It is still widely used today and you really can’t leave Florence without a souvenir in its likeness.
There are a few extra precautions in place in order to comply with the new COVID-19 measures:
- All visitors must wear a mask and disposable gloves
- You must follow the one-way path
- No dogs allowed
- Respect social distancing of other visitors not in your group
- You may stop briefly along the path
Entrance is free of charge. From the Santa Maria Novella train station, you can take a taxi or buses 12 or 13 to reach Piazzale Michelangelo and the Iris Garden. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. The last entry is at 5:30 pm.
Official website (Italian only): Italian Iris Society
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