Many Tuscan gardens in and around Florence are a mixture of Italian landscape and English formality.
In the late 19th Century, after the Unification of Italy and Florence’s brief period as Capital of Italy, property prices in Tuscany plummeted and allowed the expatriates to purchase at a ridiculously low cost. The advantage to today’s tourist is that these expatriates in exile used their money to re-establish these formal gardens to their previous glory and have left their heritage for us to visit.
Tuscan villas were often surrounded by farms and vineyards with beautiful gardens at the foot of the villa. Tuscans, with their artistic sense and attachments to their surroundings, create gardens that fit into their landscapes and use limited colour that doesn’t perish under the Tuscan sun.
Some details below on our proposed garden visits for May – but not yet set in stone so alternative suggestions are welcome.
If you are looking for somewhere to stay or if you want more information about the hotel and tour costs email penny.
Custom designed garden visits with garden historian Dr Katie Campbell
Whether it is a single afternoon or the full five days, walking tours within the city, day trips to nearby hilltop villas or an extended trip around Tuscany, our garden visits can be tailored to your interests and your budget.
Our schedule below offers a small group a private 5 day tour of various Tuscan gardens – many of which are not generally open to the public. Katie will also launch the tour at an open event at the newly reopened BM Bookshop on Borgo Ognissanti
Below is our programme for 2012 – This year will be similar
10.00 Sybil Cutting’s Villa Medici with garden redeveloped by English landscape gardener and architect Cecil Pinsent
11.00 Le Balse – home of American Philosopher Charles Strong
12.30 Vincigliata – wine and cheese tasting at the medieval castle rebuilt by English peer – Sir John Temple Leader
10.30 Villa Gamberaia - retreat of Romanian Princess Gyka and English Miss Blood
Lunch near Fiesole – la Casa del Prosciutto
16.30 Villa Palmieri /Villa Schifanoia - in San Domenico – site of the Decameron
1.00 lunch near Pienza – plus another small public garden
3.00 La Foce – home of author Iris Origo
drive to Montipulicano for a short wine tasting before returning to Florence
a walking tour of gardens in Central Florence
10.00 Boboli Gardens- Grand Duke Cosimo 1 and Eleanor de Toledo’s garden entertainment for their growing family
12.30 pizza lunch in San Niccolo area
14.00 walk up to Iris Garden - only open in May – glorious views over Florence
15.30 Il Palmerino or Giardini Torrigiani
17.00 Optional taxi up to Bellosguardo for wine at sunset in the gardens of Torre di Bellosguardo
Friday 17 May
a day trip to Lucca
11.00 Villa Reale aka Villa Marlia - home of Napoleon’s sister as Duchess of Tuscany
12.30 Villa Torrigiani, at Camigliano
13.30 lunch in Lucca
14.30 Palazzo Pfanner a setting for a Portrait of a Lady
17.30 return to Florence – arrival about 18.45
Cost will fluctuate daily for private travel in air-conditioned mini-van with Dr Katie Campbell as private tour guide.
The cost will depend on distance travelled and number of passengers sharing the cost of mini-van hire and cost of garden admissions. The most expensive days will be Wednesday and Friday with longer distances and therefore more of our drivers time leading to costs of c €140 per person.
- some images below with links to blogs about our 2011 visits
An earlier tour in May 2011 was for 8 days and included guided tours of public gardens such as Torre Bellosguardo, Boboli and Bardini gardens and tours of private villas such as La Pietra, garden of the late historian Harold Acton and I Tatti- home of the famous connoisseur Bernard Berenson, Villa Medici the first purpose-built Humanist villa plus the baroque villas of Gamberaia and Capponi set in the hilltop towns with staggering views of the surrounding countryside and the city beyond.
Proramme for May 2011 below – Blogs can be found about each of these gardens if you search the Posts on the right side – posts / gardens or follow the links below
We also visited the garden of Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza an early twentieth century interpretation of the Humanist ideal at the palace of Pope Puis Piccolomini
About your tutor
Dr Katie Campbell lectures on the postgraduate Garden History course at Bristol University, she has led many tours and writes for various publications.
Her most recent book, Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo American Gardens of Florence http://www.franceslincoln.co.uk/en-gb/C/0/Book/1355/Paradise_of_Exiles.html explores the eccentric community of English and American expatriates which gathered in Florence at the end of the nineteenth century, while her earlier Icons of Twentieth Century Landscape Design looks at the seminal designs of the past hundred years.
Dr Katie Campbell is also a journalist and fiction writer; her plays have been performed on stage and radio and she has published a novel, a collection of short stories and several books of poetry as well as Icons of Twentieth-Century Landscape Design (Frances Lincoln, 2006) and Policies and Pleasances: A Guide to the Gardens of Scotland (Barn Elms, 2007).
Where you can stay.
Villa le Rondini - guests on the tour can stay in the prestigious hotel Villa le Rondini – set in the hills overlooking Florence this hotel shares the extraordinary views enjoyed by the Anglo-Americans who developed their gardens in Fiesole. Alternatively Penny can arrange accommodation for you in the centre of Florence.
For more information about the hotel and tour costs email penny direct on email@example.com