When you think of Italy what comes to mind? Magnificent Roman ruins? Breath-taking scenery? Exquisite works of art? Or maybe your interests lean more toward Italy’s gastronomic treasures – its wines and food. Maybe all of the above. But its gardens? You’re not alone if you’re thinking, “Not so interesting”. Too much green. No flowers. Just a lot of boxwood trimmed to death, with a statue or two to break up the monotony.
But how is this possible? How could a culture of such extravagant creativity and variety in all the other art forms ever have managed to exert such restraint and self-discipline in its gardens?
The short answer is – it didn’t. Loving Italy’s Gardens is my version of the long answer.
In Loving Italy’s Gardens you will find the most beautiful and interesting gardens – public and private – that I have visited in my travels around Italy. Baroque extravaganzas, secluded medieval gardens, Versailles wannabes, flower-filled English gardens, winery gardens, park-like landscape gardens, even simple front door gardens overflowing with colourful potted flowers.
Some of these gardens were created by the rich and powerful to impress visitors or as retreats from life’s disillusions; others were carved out of barren rock, and in desolate, forgotten corners of the landscape. And yes, il giardino all’italiana – the formal Renaissance garden – only, as we’ll see, at the time it was about a lot more than shades of green and trimmed box hedges.
I’ll also be writing about the historical forces and individuals – always strong, sometimes eccentric – behind the creation of these gardens.
And, since even the most passionate garden enthusiast needs to come up for air now and then, our garden tours will be interspersed with visits to medieval hilltop villages, wineries, markets, ancient Roman ruins and much, much more.
But where to begin? In the palatial gardens surrounding Rome? The dreamy gardens of Italy’s northern lakes? Or maybe the gardens of Tuscany? Again and again I was drawn back to Florence. Could this in any way have had anything to do with the fact that I had once – as in “once upon a time” – it now seems so long ago – lived there? Even so, what better place to begin than the city universally regarded as the birthplace of the Renaissance?
I hope you enjoy the journey.