Just 12 kilometers outside of the center of Florence are the expansive gardens of Parco di Pratolino at Villa Demidoff.
Originally conceptualized as a retreat by Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand I for his Venetian mistress (and soon to be wife), Bianca Capello, the massive country villa (Villa Pratolino) and adjacent grounds were inaugurated in 1581.
Designed by the famed Renaissance architect Bernardo Buontalenti, the grounds themselves were celebrated at the time for having innovative landscape architectural features that included long walkways flanked by jets of water, and larger-than-life mannerist decorative features throughout.
The main villa was unfortunately demolished in the early 1800s after years of disrepair, but the Demidoffs - a wealthy Russian industrialist family - bought the grounds and surviving structures, redesigning the majority of the gardens to a more modern English style. The family also took up residence in one of the original villas still standing, which interestingly enough was used to house some of the Medici court jesters and entertainers during the Renaissance.
Today, visitors can explore the park for free and enjoy an afternoon lounging and exploring the grounds, which include amazing photo opps with the "Apennine Colossus," an awe-inspiring fountain sculpted by the Flemish Renaissance artist, Giambologna.