A Wonderful Tour of the Gardens of Lazio
2021 dates: Arrive on the 17th May and depart on the 22nd May 2021
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. We 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 May 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.
We are offering a special rate from 875 Euro per person, which includes 5 nights Bed and Breakfast, Dinner included on 4 evenings, plus of course entrance to each of the Gardens below and transport with chilled water and Joe as your personal guide and chauffeur.
It does not include drinks and any food whilst on the tour.
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 – The Royal Palace of Caserta – Reggia
Caserta Royal Palace and Park, Caserta, Italy
Combining the influences of Versailles, Rome, and Tuscany, the Caserta Royal Palace and Park, north of Naples, was designed according to the wishes of Charles of Bourbon III by Luigi Vanvitelli, one of the greatest Italian architects of the 18th century. Caserta is considered a triumph of Italian Baroque, and ahead of its time. Expanding across 11 acres, the garden’s pools, fountains and cascades are aligned through a ‘telescope effect’, extending as far as the eye can see.
One of the last great European gardens, Caserta Royal Palace and Park borrowed from creations such as Versailles and the 16th century villas in Rome and Tuscany. But unlike those sites, this Italian masterpiece combined manicured gardens and natural woodland, with hunting lodges and a silk factory. It took the successes of previous designs and created a world of its own. For instance, the English Garden, set within the complex, is one of the greatest, oldest, and most important picturesque spaces created in Europe.
This respect for, and “improvement upon,” nature became the Caserta Palace’s calling card, and its seminal influence is undeniable. It was, for example, the first Italian landscape garden. But, the grounds also drew from the trends spreading across Europe at the time—namely providing leisure to the royals and accommodating botanical research. Hundreds of rare and precious plants from around the world were brought to Caserta, and still grow there today.
Importantly, the design was also singular because it shows the change in approach in the relationship between royals and the rest of the community. A silk factory and associated workers’ homes were included in the layout and the natural forests were incorporated. It is an eloquent expression of the Enlightenment in material form, integrated into, rather than imposed upon, its natural setting.
Discover the gardens of Caserta and follow the network of fountains and basins that stretch out from the palace to a waterfall in the forest. Past the castle-like playhouse and the pond that hosts mock sea battles, the English Garden—one of the estate’s highlights—has a lake and decorations that mimic ancient ruins. You can explore this vast and beautiful space by bike or horse and cart to explore as much as possible. The grounds are so impressive that they have been the set for major films such as Star Wars and Mission Impossible.