The Florentines’ favorite park

Charles Francis Fuller, Monument to Maratha Maharajah of Kohlapur, Rajaram Chhatrapati, called Indian Prince Monument, 1874, Parco delle Cascine, Florence.

One might wonder whether the young Maharajah Rajaram Chuttraputti would ever have thought that he would be forever bound to the city of Florence.

This Indian prince died in Florence in 1870, at the age of 21, on his way back from England after a visit to Queen Victoria. He was cremated at the confluence of the Arno river and the Mugnone torrent, in keeping with the dictates of the Hindu religion. The monument to his eternal memory, designed by the English sculptor Charles Francis Fuller and executed in perfect Orientalist style, marks the western tip of the Parco delle Cascine.

Parco delle Cascine
Ponte all’indiano (1972-78), Florence.

I have always found this urban prow of the city stretching out over the futuristic – at least at the time of my childhood – Ponte all’Indiano bridge, an extraordinary place. A place of travel and romantic dreams where, it is said, a few years earlier, in 1819, in front of the Fountain of Narcissus, the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had been inspired to write his famous Ode to the West Wind. In the subtle decadence of the Lorraine garden and its monuments that surround this green corner of the city, which could seem to be in Hyde Park, the 19th-century Anglo-Saxon spirit that saw in Florence the symbolic place of a past Renaissance reigns supreme.

Parco delle Cascine
Giuseppe Manetti, Fontana delle Boccacce, 1796, Parco delle Cascine, Florence.

The Parco delle Cascine, originally a hunting estate for Duke Alessandro I dei Medici around 1530, is the most important green space for all Florentines. It remains, even during moments of the greatest tourist siege, a place of refuge for the local citizens, where they enjoy jogging, bike riding or taking pilates classes outdoors.

Giuseppe Manetti, Fontana delle Boccacce detail, 1796, Parco delle Cascine, Florence.