Friday 14 September 2012

The Gardens of the Tuscan villas

Gardens and gardening without utilitarian purpose seem to be defining characteristics of civilised life. From the end of the 19 C well into the early 20 C, the gardens of the Tuscan villas were among the most important attractions for visitors to Tuscany. Although apparently less fashionable now, perhaps because visits to Tuscany are much shorter and more frenetic than formerly, at least one formal garden should be on your itinerary.

Tuscan villa formal gardens
The formal garden of Villa Vignamaggio in Tuscany
Although you will easily find un giardino all'inglese anywhere in Tuscany, to avoid any false expectations, it's important to realise that an italianate garden is never a flower garden in the way many famous English gardens are. The gardens of Tuscan villas are in essence an extension of the architecture of the villa and are therefore symmetrical with extensive use of topiary and statuary. A beautiful and distant vista beyond the garden is important, and, if supplies permit, water can be incorporated, either as ponds or water works of various kinds.

A fairly complete bibliography of guide books to Tuscan gardens is provided here.

Links to descriptions and pictures of many Tuscan gardens may be found here.

One of the most talented Edwardian garden designers was Cecil Pinsent. Among the gardens he worked on were Bernard Berenson's Villa I Tatti at Fiesole, Charles Augustus Strong's Villa Le Balze , Villa Capponi and, most famous of all, Iris Origo's Villa La Foce.

Click here for information on staying at Villa Gamberaia, one of the most famous villas in Tuscany.

Some other Tuscan villa gardens easily accessible to tourists include:

Badia a Coltibuono and its reconstructed monastic garden.
Castello Brolio, essentially a 19 C folly with matching garden.
Villa Vignamaggio, a magnificent Renaissance villa on the road from Greve in Chianti to Lamole.
Villa Gamberaia, one of the finest examples of a Tuscan villa hanging garden in Tuscany.
Tuscan gardens and Tuscan culture.

Last but not least, please realise that 99% of the villas offered as vacation rentals are farmhouses, not villas. Read "When is a Tuscan villa not a Tuscan villa?" and my article on Tuscan villas to rent.

Author: Anna Maria Baldini

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