IMG_1874-minMay has finally arrived and so one of the most amazing time of the year to discover Florence from a different and unique point of view.  Spring is what I consider the best time to come to Florence because it gives you the chance to see why the ancient Romans called it Florentia, which became in “volgare”, our dialect use by Dante Alighieri to wrote his Divine Comedy, Fiorenza.  Today Firenze, the City of the FLOWERS.  You might have come to Florence many time, but in May you have a Gem which is only open for about 30 days more of less…the Iris Garden, Il Giardino dell’Iris, located on the eastern side of the Piazzale Michelangelo, opposite to the exquisite Rose Garden.

IMG_1868-minThe Iris Garden was born in 1954, and it is open since then with the aim to host the annual International Competition for the best varieties of Irises, called “Premio Firenze“.  The project and competition was born thanks to two very special ladies, members of the Italian Society Friends of the Flowers and very passionate breeders: Ms Flaminia Specht and Ms Nita Stross Radicati, thanks also to the support of Piero Bargellini, ex mayer of Florence which at the time was the alderman for the Fine Arts and Gardens in Florence.

The project of the garden is attributed to the architect Giuliano Zetti and was inaugurated in 1957.  Every year the garden is enriched with donations from all over the world and it is a very important reserve of germplam for Irises.

What relates Florence with the Iris? Well Firenze doesn’t just means the City of the Flowers, but it is our flag, the symbol of the city, the ancient connection between the Iris and the City.

If you looked on the facade of the Palazzo Vecchio or inside the Duomo, you might have noticed our coat-of-arms.  You might have seen our flag on the balcony of the Palazzo Vecchio.

Have you ever wondered what kind of flower is on our flag? Everybody calls it “Giglio”, which mean Lily, but honestly it is not a Lily, it is an Iris, actually a red Iris on a white field.

It is not just its scientific importance that make the garden special, it is the whole setting.  If you are lucky to be in Florence in May, the first two weeks of the month are the best, because of the blossoming, make sure you take some time to walk trough the garden.  The entrance is free but of course you can leave a donation to help the Iris Society to keep the garden open and in good shape.IMG_1848-min

It is a very unique green and peaceful corner in the city, walking between olive grows you will discover the many different colors, shapes and kind of Iris.

As it today there have been 58 Iris Competitions in the garden with participants from all over the world.  In 2004 there were 150 news varieties!

This year the competition is ending on May 13th, the name of the breeders are unknown until the price is assigned.    The winner of the first price receives a gold Fiorino Coin, our ancient coin minted in gold since 1252 and of course a special price is assigned to the red Iris which come closer to the color on our flag.

If you wish to come and discover this true florentine gem just walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo.  Here is the website for the Italian Iris Society where you can have more informations about its opening hours aIMG_1844-minnd the many projects of the society itself: www.irisfirenze.it

VIVA FIORENZA!