In May 2019, Connectitalia-NZ is running an exclusive small group tour to the region of Lazio, where some of Italy’s most outstanding gardens are located. The eight-day tour will be led by Robert Watson, an award-winning New Zealand landscape architect and the company’s founder, author, teacher and former restaurateur, Beniamino Petrosino.
The tour will commence in the heart of ancient Rome, where the group will stay for the first night, enjoying a traditional Roman dinner in the leafy surroundings of Trastevere. This will be the first of many opportunities for the group to sample regional delicacies!
The following morning the group will be picked up by our driver and driven east to the Tivoli area not far from Rome, where we will visit the magnificent gardens of Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa. Villa d”Este dates from the 16th Century. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is best known for its glorious Renaissance garden with its terraced hillside and stunning fountains.
This garden is without doubt one of the most famous water gardens in Italy. Hadrian’s Villa is also a UNESCO World Heritage site located at the foot of the Tiburtine Hills in Tivoli. This sprawling archaeological site is one of the best-kept and most visited sites in Italy. The villa was constructed for the Emperor Hadrian between 118 and 138AD and the impressive site comprises residential buildings, baths, nymphaeums, pavilions and gardens.
The group will stay in a luxurious hotel in the Frascati area for three nights. Frascati is one of several attractive medieval hill-towns to the south-east of Rome known collectively as the Castelli Romani. We may wish to sample a glass of famous Frascati white wine produced locally or maybe a Frascati Frizz aperitif. Grapes have been grown in this area since the 5th Century BC. The group will also visit the enchanting gardens of Ninfa with its crumbling medieval walls providing a unique micro-climate for the many rare plants gathered from all parts of the world, Ninfa is a photographer’s delight and is often described as “the perfect garden.”
Not far from Ninfa is Torrecchia Vecchia, a charming English-styled garden designed by the well-known landscape architect Dan Pearson. It has an amazing history, having initially been part of a large estate of a great Roman family of which Julius Caesar was a descendant. When we leave our hotel for our journey north of Rome we will visit the gracious gardens at Castel Gandolfo on the way. These exquisitely manicured gardens are located at the summer retreat of the Popes and have recently been opened to the public by Pope Francis.
The tour group will pass through the ancient lands of the Etruscans on its way to Viterbo in northern Lazio, where we will stay for three nights in wonderful accommodation in the ancient town centre. Viterbo is surrounded by medieval walls built during the 11th and 12th centuries. Because Viterbo lies in the heart of the ancient Etruscan region, it contains many fascinating remnants of that civilization. It is close to Tarquinia, where the Museum houses the famous Etruscan terracotta winged-horses and picturesque villages such as Civita di Bagnoregio and Tuscania, bursting with Etruscan history.
The group will have time to explore this historically rich region while also visiting two of Italy’s most famous gardens in the area. Villa Lante at Bagnaia is a 16th Century Renaissance garden designed for Cardinal Gambara. The garden is perfectly proportioned and richly detailed. It uses the Palladian circle and square in its structure, with buildings serving as garden ornaments and outstanding fountains and water features throughout the garden. Bomarzo, a village at the foot of Mount Cimino, is home to a unique and eccentric garden, Sacro Bosco, designed by Prince Vicino Orsini and the renowned architect Pirro Ligorio. The park is embellished with giant stone sculptures of monsters, dragons, mythological beings and exotic animals along with temples, fountains and obelisks marked with strange symbols. This garden provides a unique experience to visitors and is one of four great gardens we visit that are members of the Grandi Giardini Italiani association.
It is going to be difficult to leave this enchanting area of Italy but sadly, at the end of the tour we will depart for Rome or Rome International Airport depending on the group’s onward travel plans.