Welcome

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.

Giardini Giusti in Verona exemplifies a commonly held perception of the Italian garden.

Giardini Giusti in Verona exemplifies a commonly held perception of the Italian garden.

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.

Grotto in the gardens of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore.

Grotto in the gardens of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore.

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.

Front door garden in the tiny village of  Volpaia, Tuscany

Front door garden in the tiny village of Volpaia, Tuscany

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.

Villa d’Este , Tivoli.  The ultimate power garden.

Villa d’Este , Tivoli. The ultimate power garden.

I’ll also be writing about the historical forces and individuals – always strong, sometimes eccentric – behind the creation of these gardens.

The gardens of Villa Cimbrone on the Amalfi Coast were designed by a banker and his tailor.

The gardens of Villa Cimbrone on the Amalfi Coast were designed by a banker and his tailor.

Ninfa.  An English garden in the ruins of a medieval village.

Ninfa. An English garden in the ruins of a medieval village.

Il Giardino Ravino.  The creation of a cactus lover on the island of Ischia.

Il Giardino Ravino. The creation of a cactus lover on the island of Ischia.

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.

Villa Vignamaggio.  A renowned winery in the Conca d’Oro (Golden Triangle) of the Chianti Region.

Villa Vignamaggio. A renowned winery in the Conca d’Oro (Golden Triangle) of the Chianti Region.

Making a treccia (braid) at a mozzarella factory in Sorrento.

Making a treccia (braid) at a mozzarella factory in Sorrento.

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?

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I hope you enjoy the journey.  

Buon viaggio!

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