Garden review: historic Villa Gamberaia, near Florence

As gardeners, it is usual for us to want to see gardens that might inspire us. One garden I had read about, and heard about from fellow horticulturists, is the Italian garden of Villa Gamberaia, on the outskirts of Florence. Continue reading “Garden review: historic Villa Gamberaia, near Florence”

The Garden of Ninfa – is it worth all the superlatives?

It was at a meeting of heritage rose lovers that I first heard about Ninfa, a romantic, rambling, Italian garden built in the ruins of a medieval town. People spoke of it in reverential terms and my interest was piqued by their idyllic description – old roses and vines cascading from ruined towers and trees, scrambling along crumbling archways and overhanging crystal clear streams. Continue reading “The Garden of Ninfa – is it worth all the superlatives?”

Wildflowers of the Dolomites, Italy – Part 3

During our 2013 trip to the Dolomites in northern Italy (Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 1 and Part 2), we were captivated by the mountains and scenery, and were lucky enough to revisit them in 2015. Carrying less gear in our packs (but still too much – next time we’ll be going ultralight!) – we once again used several of Gillian Prices’ Walking in the Dolomites Cicerone Guide books, plus topographical maps. Continue reading “Wildflowers of the Dolomites, Italy – Part 3”

Welcome to the world’s largest maze, in Fontanellato, Italy

The Masone Labyrinth (Labirinto della Masone) of Franco Maria Ricci in Fontanellato, Italy, is 7 hectares (17 acres), making it the largest labyrinth in the world. Will you ever escape its tunnels of green gloom? Continue reading “Welcome to the world’s largest maze, in Fontanellato, Italy”

Sa Pedra Arrubia: Maurizio Usai’s garden

Sometimes I just need to take a quick look at a garden to understand the personality of its owner. I don’t think it’s because I am particularly intuitive; it’s more that for some gardens the aim of the design is so clear and easy to interpret. This is what happened when I visited the garden of Maurizio Usai. Continue reading “Sa Pedra Arrubia: Maurizio Usai’s garden”

Whisper of stars: Daniel Spoerri garden

“Margherita, I would like to visit something really special before I will go back to Melbourne. Can you help me?” My friend Margherita has spent her life writing about gardens, plants and parks in the Italian magazine ‘Gardenia’. She also founded the Italian Botanical Heritage, an association that gathers well-known Italian gardens and hidden treasures like nurseries, parks and woods, providing specialised itineraries. She knows me, and she knows that I love when art is blended with landscape. Where sculpture meets the garden. Typically Italian, sorry! Continue reading “Whisper of stars: Daniel Spoerri garden”

A garden tour of Italy (Part 2)

Travelling in Italy, I am constantly – and refreshingly – surprised at the green planting that defines the gardens and the landscape. So much so that when colours crop up, they’re a kind of embroidery, something that focuses the eye – as with this wisteria at Villa La Foce – but doesn’t immediately attract it. Continue reading “A garden tour of Italy (Part 2)”

Gardens of southern Italy & the Amalfi Coast

I have had the pleasure of leading a number of garden tours through some of the great gardens of Europe, but if pressed to nominate a favourite region, it would have to be the area of Italy from Rome south to the Amalfi Coast near Naples. Aside from the spectacular views from most of the gardens there, there is a surprising range of plants from sub-tropical species to all sorts of plants that thrive in temperate regions. Add in the rather hedonistic culture of the locals for the evening hours, and you have all the ingredients for a very memorable trip. Continue reading “Gardens of southern Italy & the Amalfi Coast”

Lessons from Italy’s summer windowboxes

Here in South Australia with its baking summers, container gardening can be challenging. Pots usually require daily watering, especially in exposed positions such as northern windowsills or balconies. Often, they look a bit exhausted, as if they are only just hanging in there… but not so the amazing window boxes and container gardens I saw in Northern Italy’s Dolomites (see my Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 1 and Part 2) last year. They all looked well-fed, well-watered and bursting with vitality. Continue reading “Lessons from Italy’s summer windowboxes”

The terraced food gardens of Cinque Terre

Forget award-winning landscape design, perfectly pruned hedges or immaculate lawns. If you want to be inspired by the sheer ingenuity, tenacity and determination of gardeners, the precipitous, terraced food gardens of Cinque Terre in coastal northern Italy are hard to beat. Continue reading “The terraced food gardens of Cinque Terre”

The romantic Garden of Ninfa, Italy

It was May and I was travelling through Italy enjoying a feast of gardens from Sorrento in the south to Lake Como on the north. That’s late spring in the Northern Hemisphere, but the weather was still chilly and, surprisingly for that time of the year in the Mediterranean, it was also wet. But rain didn’t dampen my visit to a garden billed as the most romantic in the world – the Garden of Ninfa south of Rome. Continue reading “The romantic Garden of Ninfa, Italy”

Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 2

Like any good narrative, the best walks also have a certain rhythm and structure. There’s a gradual introduction, rising to a climax, followed by a resolution. This is obvious when hiking in mountains or high country, where you ascend to a breathtaking lookout at the summit, before descending back to more gentle landscapes. For this reason, hiking purists may shun chairlifts or roads but, for me and Geoff, Continue reading “Wildflowers of the Dolomites Part 2”

Wildflowers of the Dolomites

Geoff and I recently returned from a month in Italy, including two weeks hiking in the Dolomites, the uniquely spectacular mountains along the Austrian border. It was our first time in the Northern Hemisphere and we were both captivated by Italy’s people, food, history and, especially, natural landscapes (albeit re ‘landscape’, our knees were not quite as captivated as our minds!). Continue reading “Wildflowers of the Dolomites”