Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ten Top Gardens of Central Italy


Garden in a vase, Hesperides Garden, Viterbo area 
Spring  has finally arrived here in central  Italy and it is time to tour some of  the delightful gardens that  can be found in  Lazio and  Tuscany.

 Here is my personal selection  plus  links to  more information and previous blog posts about  some of those  in the area around Viterbo.

Quirinale Palace, Rome
The magnificent  gardens of the Quirinale Palace in the heart of ancient Rome are part of  the Italian president’s  residence.   I wonder  if  President Giorgio Napolitano ( at  87 years of age, he was  elected  for a   second  seven-year term  yesterday !) ever gets a chance to enjoy a walk  here.

Christina's tulips, see  more on her blog" My Hesperides Garden"

Villa d’Este, Tivoli

Villa d’Este, built by Cardinal Ippolito Este, has  hundreds of fountains and shady avenues. A perfect day trip from Rome when combined with a visit to nearby Hadrian’s Villa,  the archetype of luxury residential architecture. The ruins of the  Hadrian’s Villa have inspired Palladio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Borromini, Piranesi and Canova.     

lavender  explodes in all its perfumed glory in late June and July 


Castel Giuliano, Bracciano
 Located on the slope of the Tolfa mountains, the  grounds of Castel Giuliano show  Marchesa Patrizi’s passion  for roses with hundreds of ancient species surrounding Etruscan tombs.

San Liberato Gardens, Bracciano Lake
 Bracciano is set among the Sabatini and Tolfa hills and known for the  imposing  Orsini Odescalchi Castle, built by Napoleone Orsini in 1470. The  Sanminiatelli  family’s castle is surrounded by magnificent  Botanical gardens  of San Liberato, a popular  venue for weddings.   Nearby is  the tiny Lake of Martignano  surrounded by cypress and poplars .   
Sacro Bosco, Bomarzo

Inscriptions highlighted in red  expressing  Vicino Orsini’s  philosophy  are engraved  on the tufa stone figures, moss covered benches, plaques and architectural follies of the park.

Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola
This  magnificent pentagonal palace can be considered the height of nepotism, for it was built for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, grandson of Pope Paul III Farnese. The upper gardens have delightful avenues, giant stone sculptures and a pleasure house.  

Villa Lante, Bagnaia
A great parterre with intricate boxwood embroidery frames the 4-part pool surrounded by balustrades decorated with Cardinal Gambara's crayfish symbol. Moss covered stairs lead to the top of the garden with views over bubbling fountains.  Nearby  is the  Cardinal’s "icebox", Conserva della Neve, where  snow was stored for making sorbets.

Peony Gardens, Vitorchiano

April and May  are the flowering months for the thousands of peony plants of Centro Botanico Moutan .

Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello

Beyond the moat of  Castello Ruspoli are  the  raised gardens laid out by Ottavia Orsini, daughter of the creator of Bomarzo’s Sacro Bosco.  The box hedges have intricate designs which  include  the initials of family members. The prince’s secret garden is hidden in a sunken area.  

La Foce, Tuscany
 Iris Origo commissioned  garden  architect Cecil Pinsent,  to create the gardens of La Foce  between 1925 and 1939.  The garden  has geometrical  “rooms” made from box hedges and potted lemon trees, enhanced with wisteria pergolas and lavender hedges.  Part of the large estate, the garden also has a family cemetery.    

For  more information  on  historic and modern gardens,  nature reserves, castles to visit, unusual museums and other treasures  see my website  and order one of the many  books  published  in English (and soon in Italian) about central Italy.


  1. Next time I visit I will make it late May. It is a beautiful country but I feel we were a bit early for the glory of a garden:) Thanks for another great posting on your blog for great information!

  2. Next time I need to visit in May and see all the lovely gardens. Another enticing, informative article Mary Jane!

  3. Another month longer would have been perfect...I hope to come back some year in the month of May!Say "Hello" to your dear Fulvio from me:)!!

    1. Thank you Jamie for your comments. We enjoyed your enthusiasm and hope to see you again in May/June. Hope you share with your friends.

    2. I certainly have.(shared with my friends) Could not tell I had posted for the delay of postings, but I am enthusiastic, the visit was wonderful and your hospitality so appreciated! Thank you! So glad we met, and I look forward to meeting again:)

  4. What a useful list, thanks Mary Jane!

  5. Thanks for including my garden with all the famous ones, an honour indeed! If anyone would like to see more of my garden please go to

    1. Christina, you are a wonderful resource for gardening information. Looking forward to including an article by you in my next book on this area.

  6. Have visited three - will try for more in Septemember. Lovely photos

  7. Here's another special group of private gardens near Lucca that will be open on the next two Sundays...

  8. The English version...

  9. Lovely collection, very fascinating. Brava!

  10. Lovely collection, beautiful photos. Brava!

  11. Thank you Judith and Linda for comments. Dont forget that also San Pellegrino in Fiore is coming up this weekend...a great walk if you have friends visiting, as we do...friends from Moscow and New Hampshire.

  12. Here is the link...