A botanical rarity at the Medici court: Bizzarria (citrus fruit similar to cedar)

With its 45 thousand square meters, the Boboli Gardens in Florence is one of the most important gardens in the world, which since 2013 has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

A true open-air museum, where fountains, caves, avenues and buildings alternate with groves, statues and lakes, telling the story of the three reigning dynasties who created and embellished it: the Medici, the Lorraine and the Savoy.

It was the enterprising vision of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wife, Eleonora de Toledo, who wanted to transform the vegetable garden of Palazzo Pitti into the majestic Boboli Gardens in 1549, a botanical treasure that reflects the Medici’s passion for plants and in particular for citrus fruits.

Thanks to the travels of explorers such as Marco Polo, highly fragrant plants with good fruits called “citrus fruits” arrived in Florence: oranges, lemons and cedars.

The Medici were so impressed that they asked their trusted agronomists to mix all three citrus fruits and create, graft after graft, new citrus fruits to arrive at a work of art, a “masterpiece” created in Florence.

Thus was born “Bizzarria”, or to be precise the Citrus Aurantium “Bizzarria”, a so-called grafting chimera, a rarity, a unique and very particular citrus fruit which, despite having the characteristics of a bitter orange, presents itself, at the same time in the same fruit, as three different species of citrus fruits: bitter orange, lemon and cedar, but with genetic characteristics that present all three appearances at the same time in an alternating and irregular way.

Every year the Bizzarria produces always different fruits, lumpy, striped and yellow, orange or green fruits.

The plant, not having the desired characteristics, and the Medici’s sense of taste linked to harmonious and perfect beauty, was defined as “bizarre” and the experiment considered as a failure. But not everyone thought so, someone stole some plants and took them to other Florentine gardens, where they reproduced at least until the end of the 19th century. After years in which it was thought lost, around 1980 it was recognized in the garden of the Medici Villa of Castello and reintroduced in the main Medici villas and in the Boboli Gardens.

An oddity that during the Renaissance had been considered an error, today represents a new fruit rich in history, passions and attempts, a wonderful plant, an ode to the strangeness and uniqueness of nature.