Spring is here, and National Gardening Week is this week. For true gardeners and wannabe green-thumbs alike, now is the time to get outdoors and turn green with envy over the best gardens out there.
This year, why limit yourself to England’s most beautiful gardens? There’s a world of amazing gardens to explore – and some of the best are in Italy. Here are just a few of the finest.
This may be the loveliest spot in all of lovely Verona. Surrounding the 16th-century Palazzo Giusti is a garden that’s renowned as one of Italy’s best. First laid out in the 1570s, with some 18th-century refinements, the Giardino Giusti makes elegant use of elements such as tall cyprus trees, fountains, grottos and statues. Don’t miss the vista of Verona from the ‘belvedere’ – a summer-house built just for the views – or the labyrinth (it’s the 16th century original). If you believe the local legend, lovers who succeed in finding each other in the labyrinth are destined to stay together for life.
Just an hour’s drive from the centre of Rome lies a remarkable window into another time: the garden of Ninfa. This watery, romantic place is artfully woven around the ruins of the Ancient Roman town of Ninfa. Visitors can even follow the traces of ancient bridges and lanes as they navigate through carpets of cyclamens in spring. Ninfa was laid to waste in 1832 when the head of the Caetani family – the local lords of Ninfa – defied the Pope. It lay in ruins until the early 1900s, when members of the Caetani family returned to begin their extraordinary garden project, which would be nurtured by three generations. These gardens make such a lasting impression that many visitors come away declaring that Ninfa is their favourite garden worldwide.
Rome is a wonderful place to visit if you’re interested in grand gardens. Take the gardens of Villa Lante, Viterbo, around an hour and a quarter’s drive north of Rome. They’re earned a reputation as the perfect specimen of a Renaissance garden. Built in the 1560s, Villa Lante certainly employs some clever landscaping – it turns an entire hillside into a water garden that tumbles down successive terraces, delighting and surprising all the way. To this day, its original cascades, fountains and grottos all together work together harmoniously thanks to the inspired work and advanced understanding of Tommaso Ghinucci, a hydraulics engineer and architect from Siena.