Italy has many gardens to visit ranging from formal gardens to parks with unusual statuary and waterworks. Late spring and early summer are usually the best times to visit but even in fall many gardens have plants with fall flowers and colors. Some gardens are closed in winter or have limited hours.
9 Top Italian Gardens:
- Villa d’Este, in Tivoli to the east of Rome, was created in the 16th century. The villa’s gardens are known primarily for the many amazing fountains, waterworks, and statues, some of which were taken from the 2nd century Hadrian’s Villa outside town. Tivoli makes a great day trip from Rome by train, taking about an hour (and 10 – 15 minute walk). For easy access, take a Tivoli Day Trip from Rome with guided walking tours of Villa d’Este and the extensive remains of Hadrian’s Villa plus transportation.
- Parco Giardino Sigurtà, in northern Italy near Verona, is a huge park with a variety of gardens spread out over 148 acres that includes a labyrinth made of 1,500 yew trees, water gardens, 30,000 rose bushes, and Europe’s second largest flowering of tulips. 19 species of flowers bloom at staggered intervals so there’s always something blooming during the opening months of March through early November and on weekends there are often special events. The park has ample visitor facilities including several refreshment stands, two places to buy lunch, picnic grounds, a little train that takes visitors through the gardens, and golf cart and bicycle rentals for touring on your own.
- Hanbury Botanical Gardens, on the northwestern coast between Ventimiglia and the French border, is built on a slope between the road and a villa by the sea. Pick up a map with color coded itineraries at the ticket office as there’s a lot to see spread over 45 acres, including various plant groupings, statues, fountains, sea views, and even part of the old Roman road. The climb back up is fairly strenuous so have a drink or sandwich at the cafe at the bottom and plan a leisurely return. Go early or in off-season to avoid tour groups and find parking (which is very limited). Because of the mild climate, some kind of flower blooms every month at the gardens which are open all year. Hanbury Gardens visiting information
- Villa Garzoni Garden, in Tuscany between Lucca and Montecatini Terme, is an 18th century garden that’s a mixture of Renaissance and Baroque. Garden pathways, lined with statues, lead up the hill to the villa itself (currently closed to the public). Highlights include flower displays, roses, box hedges, water features, a labyrinth, and a collection of 19th century camellias. Also in the garden is a butterfly house, an enclosed tropical garden where butterflies and small birds live.
- La Foce Garden, in Tuscany’s beautiful Val d’Orcia near Montepulciano, is a mix of Italian and English style. The garden was designed by English architect Cecil Pinsent in the early 20th century for Iris Origo, an Anglo-American woman who moved to the villa and grounds with her husband Antonio Origo. She and Antonio revived the estate, turning it into a working farm, and helped bring about improvements for farm workers and social changes. They also housed children during World War II. You can read more about her fascinating life in Images and Shadows: Part of a Life.
- Villa Lante, north of Rome near Viterbo, is a top Italian Renaissance garden. Fountains, water, statues, and topiary are the main features of the terraced garden and you can visit two small villas with frescoes. Next to the garden is a free public park that was once a hunting reserve. The Villa Lante garden is fairly small and can easily be visited in an hour. It’s in the small medieval town of Bagnaia, also worth a short visit. Villa Lante is open all year but visiting hours vary by season and it’s closed on Mondays and holidays. Take a full day excursion to Viterbo and Villa Lante from Rome.
- Villa Pisani, one of the Venetian Villas on the Brenta River between Venice and Padua, is known as the Queen of the Venetian Villas. Its 18th century gardens include fountains and statues but the top feature is the Labyrinth of Love with a tower at the center from where you’ll get great views of the labyrinth and gardens. Luckily there’s also a guide in the tower, yelling out directions for those who need help finding their way through the maze. Villa Pisani is open all year but closed on Mondays and some holidays. Visiting hours for the villa and maze vary be season – check hours and prices on Villa Pisani.
- Reggia di Caserta, Caserta’s Royal Palace to the north of Naples in Campania, is a World Heritage Site. Its extensive gardens include fountains, waterworks, formal gardens, statues and even a waterfall. Caserta can be reached by train, on the rail line between Rome and Naples – see Caserta Map. Caserta Palace and Gardens are closed Tuesdays and some holidays, hours vary by season. Check current hours and ticket prices on Caserta Palace. Take a Caserta Royal Palace guided tour with transportation from Naples.
- Park of Monsters in Bomarzo, also called the Sacred Grove, about 15 miles east of Viterbo to the north of Rome, is a park filled with monstrous statues created in the 16th century. Sculptures include mythological gods and characters, animals larger than life size, fantasy figures, and historical creations such as Hannibal’s elephant capturing a Roman soldier. One of the most famous sculptures is Orcus (god of the underworld) with his big mouth open so you can walk inside the head. Also in the park are a leaning house and the Temple of Eternity, created as a memorial to Giulia Farnese by her husband, Prince Orsini, who created the park after her death. The park is open all year, usually from 8 or 8:30 until sunset.
- Suggested Reading: The Best Gardens in Italy, A Traveller’s Guide
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