Villa Gamberaia dates back to the 15th Century but became most famous after 1896 when it was bought by Romanian Princess Ghika – and adapted to suit her lifestyle and her taste.
All of the Anglo- American residents in Florence enthused about this garden – Berenson declared it to be one of the favourite haunts of his life and Iris Origo described it as “the most beautiful, and the most romantic garden of them all.
The most unusual feature of the garden is the water parterre – in which all the cut box hedges surround pools of water and which ends in a scrollwork pool – which previously housed a garenna (a rabbit hutch kept on the water as a protection against predators).
It was rumoured that the reclusive Princess only came out of the villa in the early dawn to bathe in her pools and then shut herself away in the Villa for the remains of the day. Her dainty companion Miss Florence Blood was less retiring and did move in the social circles of the time.
The garden has Rococo grotto’s hung with shells and pietra spugna (calcareous concretions used to decorate grottos) In this garden they are unusually made of terracotta rather than stone and are magnificently flamboyant – I particularly like the kilted skirt on this hero!
Lemon trees are essential in a Tuscan garden – they were a source of nourishment as well as colour – but all these villas also have a limonaia to house their citrus fruits during the harsh Tuscan winters.