As you can see from the map, Giardino Bardini is essentially next-door neighbours with Boboli Gardens. But, as often happens with real-life neighbours, as much as we might hope we’ll have lots in common and become great friends with the new people who move in next door, apart from proximity, Boboli and Bardini have very little in common.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the two is that Bardini is a private garden, only recently opened to the public. And it is only a third the size of Boboli (4 hectares compared to Boboli’s eleven). Four hectares is still a fair size. I almost wished it would rain – a perfect excuse to sit down for a while. Almost.
On my visit to Bardini a few years earlier, the statue above was the first thing I saw upon entering the garden. It was nowhere in sight this time so I headed over to the Bosco Inglese (English Forest).
The Baroque staircase may not lead to something quite so dramatic as La Trinità dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome, but the view from the top is one even Alberti would have approved of.
Below the Baroque Staircase is the Giardino dei Fiori. Three long borders cross the hillside at right angles. They are quite lovely, but “Garden of the Flowers” seemed a strange choice for a name. Apart from the roses, which like everywhere else, were on a blooming rampage, there weren’t a lot of flowers.
Equally strange were the plaques at the end of each border – one for spring, one for summer and one for fall – on which were detailed planting schemes as well as brief explanations of the Principio della composizione. Brilliant! So why, you may be asking yourself, describe them as ‘strange’?
The Italian word for ‘strange’ is strano. A foreigner is a straniero. In my experience there was more straniero than italiano in those panels.
I have visited a lot of gardens in Italy, but this was the first time I had come across signage like this. Helpful, instructional, horticultural signage. All the more remarkable because this is not classified as a “botanical garden”. Of course you don’t have to stop and read the panels to enjoy the beauty of the garden, but I was glad to see that I wasn’t the only one leaning over to check them out.
Depending on how you visit the garden, it may be around here that you start to feel that while it has something of the Renaissance about it, this isn’t a Renaissance garden. Is ‘Eclectic’ a category in horticultural design?
Since the first recorded owners, the Mozzi family, bought, lost and then bought back the property at the beginning of the 14th century, the garden has been added to, dug up, and reworked by a succession of owners set on leaving their imprint.
The Belvedere Terrace dates from the early 1900’s. So does the garden’s name. An antiquarian, Stefano Bardini, bought the property in 1913 – on the eve of World War I. Was he totally unaware of the impending disaster when he set about making major structural changes to the garden? Changes that included building the Belvedere Terrace, as well as demolishing a centuries-old walled garden to make room for a wide carriage drive at the entrance. Or, just as a deeply depressed military officer had done centuries before, did he turn to his garden in an attempt to cope with the unbearable premonition of horrific events beyond his control?
After the Sack of Rome (1527) and the years of war that followed, Duke Orsini had tried to cope with the tragedies life had strewn in his path by creating a garden in a desolate rocky forest in central Italy. On a column in his strange garden, which he called Sacro Bosco (Sacred Forest), are the words Sol per sfogar il core. Difficult to translate, but “Just to vent the sorrow” gives the idea. (I’ll write about it in a later post.)
On my way out I almost walked right by this statue. But there was something about the way the rose framed her face. On the off chance the sun might come out and brighten things up a bit, I went over to a bench on the other side of the little terrace to wait.
A lot has been written about the value of paradigm shifts and changing one’s perspective, but I was amazed to stumble across a physical demonstration of the concept on this nondescript little terrace.