With its rolling hills and picturesque coastlines, it’s no surprise that Italy has inspired some of the world’s most impressive works of art. This is a country where creativity, art and nature are inextricably intertwined – and nowhere do they meet more spectacularly than Italy’s gardens. Dotted across the varied landscape, these are places where manicured arrangements sit alongside impressive sculptures and breathtaking views, perfectly encapsulating the romance that has become synonymous with Italy. With spring fast approaching and flowers starting to burst into colourful blooms, we take a look at some of Italy’s most beautiful gardens.
Giardino Boboli, Florence
Sprawling over 111 acres, Florence’s Boboli Gardens are elegant, extravagant and utterly captivating – what else did you expect from one of the world’s most luxurious cities? Stroll along wooded avenues, marvel at the ornamental island garden and take a glance at the famous Neptune Fountain before exploring Boboli’s grandiose grottoes, home to pretty stalactites and sculptures created by Michelangelo. The neighbouring Giardino Bardini is also full of unique charms. Baroque steps, fringed with irises, lead to a picturesque garden that plays host to the Channel of the Dragon – a huge tunnel covered with lilacs and lavender that basks you in purple light – and offers some of the finest city views in all of Florence.
La Cervara, Liguria
Along the Italian Riviera, on the coastal road leading to Portofino, stands a Renaissance garden that combines a rich history with a level of artistry reserved for only the most impressive locations. The Benedictine La Cervara Abbey dates as far back as the 14th century, and its lovingly-designed garden – which looks out onto the promontory of Portofino on one side and the Gulf of Tigullio on the other – feels like a small piece of paradise. Here you’ll find framed pergolas, Mediterranean flowers, rows of perfectly preserved hedges and a pretty marble fountain, as well as a traditional vegetable garden originally used by monks to grow medicinal plants and local herbs.
Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
Italy’s lakes are as famous for their unparalleled beauty as much as they’re known for enticing countless Hollywood stars, and Isola Bella, a picturesque island set on Lake Maggiore, is one of its most stunning attractions. A natural treasure made even richer by human intervention, the island was transformed from a barren rock to a blooming garden in the 17th century, and has astounded visitors since. The palazzo stands proudly as a baroque masterpiece and the gardens continue the feeling of opulence and majesty. White peacocks wander across the lawns and fountains burst from the ground, while the grand Teatro Massimo, with its impressive statues, acts as the island’s centrepiece. If you can draw your eyes away from the island, there are also beautiful views of Lake Maggiore to enjoy.
Giardino Giusti, Verona
Verona may be prominently known as the setting for Romeo and Juliet’s tragic romance, but move away from the historic centre and you’ll find a garden that’s equally as charming. Considered a masterpiece of Renaissance landscaping, the Giusti Gardens is an oasis of calm where fragrant orange trees stand proudly next to historic city walls and meticulously groomed flower beds and manicured hedge meet rustic natural woodlands. Of course, this being Verona, the gardens also offer the promise of romance – local legend has it that lovers who manage to find each other in the gardens' picturesque labyrinth are destined to stay together forever.
Villa Cimbrone, Ravello
We’ve mentioned before how easy it is to fall in love with the Amalfi Coast. With its gorgeous seaside towns, fragrant lemon trees and beautiful beaches, this is vita al mare at its best. And it’s along the coast that you’ll find one of Italy’s most spectacular hidden gems – Villa Cimbrone, tucked away in the hilltop town of Ravello. While many tourists instead opt for the nearby Villa Rufolo, the gorgeous Villa Cimbrone offers lush blooms, exotic colours and impressive sculptures with a decidedly more tranquil atmosphere. The highlight, though, is the villa’s Terrace of Infinity – a belvedere, lined by regal marble busts, boasting jaw-dropping panoramic views of the coast and out into the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea.