The world-renowned Garden of Ninfa is an Italian natural wonder created by the Caetani family – and, more especially, by three generations of remarkable women. Read more about it in our May issue – on shelves now.
We’ve outlined five of our top romantic gardens in Italy for more renaissance-style inspiration.
1. Isola Bella
Borromeo villa, on a small rocky island in Lake Maggiore, houses a gorgeous garden extravaganza. In baroque style, the villa is found at the centre of the layout, with avenues that draw the scenery into the garden. Isola Bella employs the lake and mountains as garden features, and its stepped terraces are reminiscent of painters’ interpretations of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Like a flower-strewn barge, the island now drifts among the snow-capped mountains of the lake.
2. The Giusti Garden
Bestowed its present configuration by Agostino Giusti in the second half of the 16th century, the Giusti Garden features a boulevard of cypresses that lead to an artificial grotto. With a classic main entrance, a cave is carved into the tuff of the hill and features a giant stone mask that sends flames flickering from its gaping mouth. The garden celebrates elements of ‘artificialia’ amid the ‘naturalia’, and is adorned with seashells, mosaics and water features.
3. La Cervara
La Cervara – an Italian-style monumental garden on the way from Santa Margherita to Portofino on the Italian Riviera – extends over two levels and was once the vegetable garden of Benedictine monks. Now, skilfully trimmed boxwood hedges in ornate geometric designs surround a 17th-century marble fountain, plants drape over border walls in the garden, 60 columns are covered with star jasmine, and grapevines hang on the antique arbours. From colourful strelitzias, citrus and pine trees, a centuries-old pink pepper tree and an extremely rare pink caper to a wisteria that is hundreds of years old, the garden – with its spectacular views over the Gulf of Tigullio – has plenty to offer appreciative visitors.
4. Roseto Botanico di Cavriglia
The world’s largest private rose garden, Roseto Botanico di Cavriglia, was created in 1967 by Professor Gianfranco Fineschi. More than 6 500 different rose varieties are spread over just one acre of land, making it a ‘living museum’ for its unique collection of ancient and modern roses from around the globe. In this Tuscan Italian garden – especially from mid-May to mid-June when in full bloom – it’s easy to see why the rose is known as the ‘Queen of Flowers’.
5. Villa Taranto
It would be easy to spend more than a day exploring the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto, in Verbania on the western shore of Lake Maggiore. The entrance is flanked by an alley of towering conifers, leading the eye towards the main gardens that house a number of enticing sections. First stop is the Fontana dei Putti, a magnificent fountain adorned with sculptures in true Italian style and surrounded by blooming flowerbeds. Explore the Dahlia Garden next, with a maze of more than 1 700 plants (including an impressive Emory Paul) before moving onto the Vertical Gardens, a tropical paradise located in a glasshouse.
Take a stroll across the Valetta, an artificial valley with an adorable one-arch stone bridge and a rare sample of the dove tree, into the Terraced Gardens, which gaze over multi-hued flower beds, small waterfalls, and ‘The Fisher’, a bronze statue by Neopolitan artist Vincenzo Gemito. End off your visit at the Lotus, a contorted pond full of majestic lotus petals, and finally, the Herbarium, where ‘natural paintings’ showcase spontaneous flora from the UK collected in 1929 by Henry Cocker, the first head gardener at Villa Taranto.