With the arrival of Spring the thoughts of many people turn to their gardens. A few dry days provide an opportunity to get the garden into shape for the coming summer Staff in Europe’s great and glorious gardens will also be working hard to prepare their gardens, ready for the onslaught of tourists, starting with the Easter holiday period in just a few weeks’ time.
I’m going to look here at two great Italian gardens which attract thousands of tourists during a stay in the cities of Florence and Rome. Firstly, Florence’s Boboli Gardens are worthy of at least a half day visit. The gardens lie behind the Pitti Palace, main seat of the Medici family, and are amongst the largest and finest 16th century formal Italian gardens. The garden was laid out for Eleonora di Toledo, wife of the Grand Duke of Florence Cosimo I de Medici and the gardens were enriched and enlarged by the Medici and Lorraine families in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The gardens extend over a vast area forming an open-air museum with antique and Renaissance statues, grottoes and large fountains. Among the main highlights of the garden are the Bacchus Fountain, the Grotto Grande and the Egyptian” Obelisk” which was brought from Luxor in 1789. The gardens are open daily and entrance costs €7.
The Villa Borghese is the largest public park in Rome and, lying close to the Spanish Steps and the busy Via Veneto, it offers a very welcome refuge from the hectic streets of the city. The park features a lake, temples, fountains, statues and several museums. The area now occupied by the park was a vineyard until 1605 when Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a nephew of Pope Paul V, turned the vineyard into a park. The first park was designed by landscaper Domenico Savino da Montepulciano and was very formal in style with geometric shapes, the first such park in Rome. The park was later laid out in a more natural way featuring wide shady lanes, several temples, beautiful fountains and many statues.
The Villa Borghese park is also home to several museums. The Museo e Galleria Borghese has a collection of sculptures with some important works by Canova and Bernini and also houses a collection of paintings from several masters including Titian, Rubens and Raphael. The Museo Nazionale Etrusco displays a collection of pre-Roman objects, mostly Etruscan, excavated around Rome. The park also contains an amphitheatre (the Piazza di Siena), an arch from the eighteenth century (the arco di Settimio Severo) and a botanical garden.
Two very different but very beautiful Italian gardens – well worth a visit at any time of year but especially in Springtime.