From classical marvels to Renaissance mastery to just sheer beauty, come along and let Italy work its magic. This spring tour is for both the avid horticulturists and for those who just want to add another dimension to their Italian experience, with guided garden visits with local experts and general sightseeing as well as excellent food and wine. We visit some wonderful villas and there is free time to see museums and other sights that aren’t strictly gardens.
We try and ground the exploration of the wonderful Italian gardens in a general appreciation of Italian culture and history. Some days we leave gardens aside and simply enjoy the sights of the city we are visiting, whether that be Florence, Verona or Rome. We’re experts in Italy, Italian history and culture and enjoying all facets of this wonderful country and we engage local, expert guides to lead our excursions to many of the gardens.
We stay in just four bases on this tour with four nights in Rome, four nights in Florence, three nights in Verona and three nights in Bellagio, on Lake Como. We generally stay in four-star hotels, or very good, boutique three star hotels on occasion. Five lunches and five dinners are included in restaurants chosen for their authenticity and local cuisine. All entry fees to attractions in the itinerary are included as well as local, expert guides and all transfers in private air-conditioned buses.
What our clients say about this tour:
Our garden tour with Italian Tours was like traveling with old friends. Beautifully organised at a pace everyone could enjoy. Everything had been ‘pre tested’ by our guide and leader Luca. From the hotels, which were intimate and perfect and the local fabulous ‘ casalinga’ restaurants, to the tours of absolutely amazing gardens some of which were owned for centuries by the same family and you got to meet the fascinating people who actually owned them. It was such a special experience….. we have booked again for this year!
Arrive at your own convenience at the hotel, where we meet in the late afternoon to go for aperitivi and our welcome dinner in a typical Roman trattoria near Campo dei Fiori. Overnight: Rome
This morning we drive north to visit two of perhaps the most famous Italian gardens, conveniently located in proximity to each other at Tivoli. Our first stop is at Villa Adriana, the ruins of Emperor Hadrian’s villa, built from 117AD. The ruins of the villa were rediscovered in the 15th Century and became a source of inspiration for the great Renaissance architects and designers.
Cardinal Ippolito d’Este oversaw extensive excavations in the 16th Century while he was Governor of Tivoli. It is to his palace, the Villa d’Este, that we head off to in the afternoon. The Villa d’Este is one of the most impressive of the high Renaissance gardens and we will spend a delightful afternoon wondering through the hectares of gardens before heading back to Rome.
We start this morning with a walking tour of the Vatican Gardens, the enormous, previously private gardens of the Pope. Our ticket to the Gardens includes entry to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel so, time permitting, you can spend an hour or so in the museums, before we head back to our hotel.
In the afternoon you have free to explore the Eternal City; catch-up on shopping and postcards or just put your feet up. Our hotel is next door to some of Rome’s key attractions including the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, the Corso shopping district and the Trevi Fountain so it will be easy to do a combination of all activities.
Today we will drive just south of Rome to visit the Garden of Ninfa, perhaps the most romantic garden in the world. The prosperous town of Ninfa was abandoned in the 14th Century and left as a medieval Pompeii until Prince Gelasio Caetani and his English mother started to create a garden around, on and in the ruins of the old town in the 20th Century. We return to Rome later that afternoon in time for aperitivi.
Today we leave our base in Rome and transfer to Florence. On our way we stop at the Castello Ruspoli, a wonderful traditional Italian garden that boasts hedging dating back to the 1600s. We have lunch in the pretty hilltop town of Vignanello before driving on to Florence. We’ll arrive in time for you to settle in and relax before the excitement of the next few days.
This morning is again a time-out from the gardens – we spend it on a walking tour of central Florence learning about the origins of the Renaissance and some of the history of the Medici family whose name will crop up again and again over the coming days. You will have the afternoon free to appreciate this memorable city. Florence lends itself to be explored on foot, its famous museums and churches rich in art are a tempting attraction, but its famous markets and beautiful piazze are just as inviting.
Today we explore two of the important gardens within the city of Florence. Firstly, we visit the private Torrigiani gardens in the morning. Once inside these huge gardens you can so easily forget you are in the middle of a crowded city.
After lunch we visit another garden in central Florence – the Bardini Gardens – with their wonderful views out over the city and its river Arno.
On our last day in Florence we spend the morning visiting one of the Medici gardens at Villa Castello. The villa was constructed by Cosimo I de Medici in the 1500s when he was elected as the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Many experts claim that it is perhaps the nearest thing to a true Renaissance garden that exists today. It features the expected green hedges and formal layout of Renaissance gardens but also the colours and flowers not usually associated with these gardens.
In the afternoon we visit the Villa Gamberaia set in the hills above Florence.
We’re on the road again today, heading north to the enchanting small city of Verona. Our route takes us through Modena, famous as the centre of Italy’s balsamic vinegar industry. We’ll stop along the way to visit an acetaia, a traditional balsamic vinegar producer, where we’ll learn why this tightly controlled product is as expensive per litre as the best champagnes!
We arrive in Verona in time for the afternoon passeggiata, the leisurely stroll through the streets and piazze of this most romantic city with the rest of its gentlefolk.
This garden is one of the relatively undiscovered treasures of Verona. It dates back to 1404, on land originally purchased to build a dyeing factory but transformed over the centuries into one of Italy’s most spectacular gardens. The present layout, which features Roman ruins, fountains, mythological statues and an enormous cypress beloved of the poet Goethe, was designed in 1570 by Agostino Giusti, a knight of the Venetian Republic. We’ll enjoy the spectacular views of Verona from the belvedere as well as exploring its lovely palazzo.
We leave the afternoon free to wander through the charming pedestrian streets of the city.
Today we’ll introduce you to the joys of the Ville Venete: the summer retreats built for aristocratic Venetians along the rivers and canals that lead to Venice. We drive through the beautiful Veneto countryside to reach Villa Pisani and
its gardens. The villa itself was built in the eighteenth century by architects influenced by Palladio; the surrounding gardens are elegant in the extreme, boasting beautiful symmetrical pools, statuary and a wonderfully enigmatic labyrinth.
The Franciacorta area has some of the best champagne-style wines in the world. We’re lucky to have a great relationship with one of the smaller quality producers in the area, who are also sensational chefs. So our road north to Bellagio today will be punctuated by a enjoyable break at this wonderful small winery, a tour of the their production facilities and a memorable lunch.
We arrive at Bellagio mid-afternoon in time to settle down for aperitivi on the hotel’s terrace overlooking the exquisite Lake Como.
Today we drive across to the neighbouring Lake Maggiore where we visit the most spectacular of the Borromean Islands, Isola Bella. In the sixteenth century Carlo III Borromeo acquired this island as the site for his Baroque palace and surrounding gardens. Its unique geography has resulted in a multi-level tiered garden with spectacular and surprising views from different angles. Watch out for the noisy white peacocks who just love to put on a gaudy display.
We spend our last day criss-crossing the waters of Lake Como to see some beautiful villa gardens. We visit two of the most famous, Villa Melzi and Villa Carlotta. These two gardens are in part the product of the rivalry between Francesco Melzi d’Eril and his neighbour across the water Giovanni Battista Sommariva as they tried to outdo one another in an open display of horticultural one-upmanship.
Today we depart our base and transfer back to Milan’s Malpensa airport, arriving there in the early afternoon. We are happy to organise for you to extend your stay in the Lakes area or to offer advice for extending your holiday in Italy.