A Wonderful Tour of the Gardens of Lazio
Lazio has some of the finest gardens in Italy: there are so many to see and some of the most famous are to be found within an hour of Casale San Pietro. We have decided to offer a Garden of Lazio Tour as we want to share some of these stunning gardens with our guests.
We are planning three full days of garden visits, however I would recommend a five day break at Casale San Pietro, so you can also have time to enjoy Rome and/or the local medieval towns and of course everything that the Casale has to offer.
We think April is one of the best times to do this tour, when all the spring flowers and blossom are out and everything is fresh and green – you can actually see the gardens coming to life. Albeit each month has something different to see in all the gardens.
We are offering a special accommodation rate in April:
Superior King Size Room: 231 Euro for Dinner, Bed & Breakfast per room per night
Luxury Suite: 251 Euro for Dinner, Bed & Breakfast per room per night.
The Garden Tour
All of the magnificent gardens on this Tour are around 1 hour away from The Casale. Joe can take up to 8 people in an air conditioned mini bus. We do need to specify a minimum party of 4 people, if this is the case, we can transport the group in our air-conditioned Mercedes Benz.
The cost of the three day tour is 250 Euro per person, which includes all transportation, chilled water in the car and entry into the Gardens. It does not include any food or drinks.
Day One – Ninfa
Described by Monty Don and The New York Times as “The Most Romantic
Garden in the World”, the gardens at Ninfa meander through the ruins of the once-great Caetani family’s estate.
The trees, plants, flowers, the roses rambling over arches and ruins, the bright green emerald weed swaying in the bottom of the river that runs through the estate, combine to make this a magical place. Looking upwards to see the village of Norma lining the ridge, it’s an implausibly dramatic setting.
Cardinal Nicolò III Caetani ordered the architect Francesco Perugino to build a garden in the area of Ninfa, but this garden fell into decay soon after the Cardinal’s death in 1585. During the 17th century Ninfa was gradually deserted due to the expansion of the surrounding marshes and the arrival of malaria.
However, in the early 1920s, a descendant, Gelasio Caetani, saw the potential of the gardens and, along with his English mother, decided to restore the gardens, and to some extent the ruins, but had the vision to mainly leave the ruins as they were, as their vision was clear – it would look so romantic. They started planting and what a vision: as you weave your way through the gardens, each new area you find is a feast for the eyes.
Ninfa is not far from the coast, so after the visit to the Gardens, Joe will take you to San Felice Circeo, which is a lovely little coastal town and you can enjoy a coffee, glass of prosecco or a cheeky Aperol Spritz.
Day Two – Villa D’Este and Villa Adriana
Dating from the second century AD, Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana), was built on a site owned by the Emperor Hadrian’s wife, Vibia Sabina. It consists of a roughly 30-building complex spread over 250 water-rich acres in Tivoli. The vast estate was designed to accommodate a few thousand people and indeed did so, as emperors tended not to travel light but moved about with entourages that included their
court, servants, and visitors seeking patronage—a retinue that could rival the size of a small town.
The sprawling grounds contain numerous pools, a long canal, and streams – some are flanked by statues and temples, or by cypress and olive trees – others end in covered grottoes and arcades. Marcus Aurelius and Caracalla were among the famous Roman rulers who used the retreat.
Like Hadrian, Cardinal Ippolito D’Este, a member of the noble Este family (his mother was Lucrezia Borgia), built the splendid villa that bears his family’s name in Tivoli, a sort of sixteenth century version of the Hamptons, where the city’s elite spent summers away from the heat and intrigues of the Eternal City. The cardinal commissioned Pirro Logorio to transform the surrounding landscape which became one of the most famous, not to mention copied, gardens in the world, thanks to its ingenious feats of water engineering (using only gravity) and a seemingly
endless assortment of fountains (one hundred line one promenade), nymphaeums, waterfalls and cascades.
So renowned were Villa D’Este’s landscape marvels that Europe’s best painters and artists, including Piranesi, Fragonard, Turner and Corot made pilgrimages here, their depictions spreading the fame of this extraordinary setting throughout the world. Mythological statues adorn many of the fountains, pools and terraces. The Neptune Fountain was created by Bernini, the master architect of Baroque Rome.
Day Three – Frascati and Villa Aldobrandini and Castel Gandolfo
The best and most famous example of the early Italian Baroque style. Instead of standing on one edge, the palace is the centrepiece of the garden layout. It is theatrically set into a wooded hill and, like the other Frascati villas, casts an eye across the Campagnia to the dome of St Peters, Rome.
Every aspect of the place is aristocratic. It was designed for a ‘nephew’ of a Pope – this is how the church described papal children until the twentieth century. Villa Aldobrandini occupies an imposing situation with a broad terrace dominating the town of Frascati. To the rear, there is a water theatre with niches for statues and fountains. A statue of Atlas holds a globe stands in the central niche. Behind the theatre, an avenue with a central water cascade pushes upwards into the
oak and chestnut woods. There are garlanded Pillars of Hercules. Work on the garden began in 1598 and was finished in 1603. The waterworks were designed by Orazio Olivieri. The Villa was badly damaged during the Second World War and then rebuilt. Many of the statues have gone and some of the fountains, which used to soak unsuspecting visitors, are no longer working.
Frascati is a lovely Town and is of course famous for the Frascati wine, it is quite a large town, so well worth a look around at the delightful shops, pretty churches and wonderful coffee shops and restaurants.
Not far from Frascati is Castel Gandolfo, the home of the Pope’s summer palace. Castel Gandolfo overlooks the volcanic caldera of Lake Albano, a perfect water-filled crater. The town has many elegant villas and with its starting views over the lake, has the reputation of being a very exclusive place, attracting pilgrims and visitors due to its connection with the Pope.
Down on the lakeside, there is a holiday feel: restaurants and ice cream parlours line the promenade and there are pedaloes and bicycles that you can rent. Lake Albano is used as an Olympic training venue for canoeing and kayaking.
The Vatican have only recently opened up the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo to the public. The beautiful Barberini gardens are also open to visitors and are toured on an ecological vehicle.