Bernardo Buontalenti, the 16th century Florentine stage designer and architect, was also known as Bernardo delle Girandole (Bernardo of the
Fireworks). Sounds like a fun guy! He worked for the Medicis all his life, designing costumes, sets, fireworks displays, palaces, and gardens.
His three-chambered Grotto Grande in the Boboli gardens was built between 1583 and 1588. The grotto is not always open to the public. Times are posted. When I was there it was unlocked every two hours, for about half an hour at a time. Photography is permitted but the darkness of the interior chambers and the presence of crowds make it a tricky site to photograph. We couldn’t go into the third chamber, so I photographed it over the barrier.
The niches on either side of the entrance hold statues of Apollo and Ceres.
The close-up of the facade, below, was taken the first day we visited the Boboli Gardens (hence, the overcast sky and bluish tones). The other photos were taken on our second visit (sunny day!), and we showed up at one of the times when the grotto was open.
The first chamber is very bright because it is illuminated by a circular opening in the painted ceiling and a large window above the columns, as well as by the columned entrance itself.
The next two photos show the painted ceiling of the first chamber.
The first chamber has carved pastoral scenes, decorated with paint and embedded seashells, on the left and right walls.
The triangular opening in the back wall leads to the second chamber, containing Vincenzo de’ Rossi’s statue of Paris and Helena (1560).
The second chamber is much smaller than the first. It’s also quite dark and difficult to photograph. I had to brighten these photos (ISO 3200!) considerably to show the details.
The third chamber, which we couldn’t enter, contains Giambologna’s statue of the bathing Venus (1565).