Gamberaia and Chianti – a good mixture?

Villa Gamberaia - May 2011

We began our day with a visit to the small but perfectly formed gardens of the Villa Gamberaia – much eulogised by the Anglo- American exiles over the years – this is garden that Iris Origo described as the most beautiful and most romantic garden of them all.  Part of it’s romance stems from the unusual water parterre, where the elusive Romanian Princess Catherine Ghika, an early Greta Garbo type recluse, was reputed to take her dawn bathe after she went into seclusion as her fabulous beauty began to fade.

a bathing pool for Princess Gyka

a bathing pool for Princess Gyka

The image above shows the pool at the end of the water filled parterres where once there was an artificial island in the middle, where rabbits were relatively safe from hungry foxes!

There is a story that the villa was named after the crayfish found in the local ponds  but it is more likely to be to do with the Gamberelli family which owned the property in the 16th Century

Wisteria at Villa Gamberaia

Wisteria at Villa Gamberaia

April is a good time of year for garden visits with lots of flowers and especially the distinctive colour of wisteria. The downside of an April visit is that the lemon bushes are all still being protected from frost-bite in the limonaia.

In the middle of May, when we have a week of garden visits led by garden historian Katie Campbell, we hope will give us flowers, lemons and good weather!

limonaia at Villa Gamberaia

limonaia at Villa Gamberaia

This villa and garden werenot always so lovely – having suffered grievous damage from a fire started by a German Officer in retreat from the approaching Allied troops – but, according to Bernard Berenson, even when they had been destroyed and neglected the position retained it’s charm and it’s “power to inspire longing and dreams”

Villa Gamberaia

Villa Gamberaia

Kath at Gamberaia

Kath at Gamberaia

 I am always interested in the story of Princess Ghika and her soulmate – lady sometimes described as English and otherwise as American – called Miss Florence Blood – despite her unusual name she was described as amiable – and was certainly more keen to be seen out and about than her reclusive companion!

Flowers at view from Settignano

After Villa Gamberaia, our driver – owner Filippo Fattori of Tuscany Care Tours – next took us to Greve – where we bought supplies of Cinta Senese prosciutto and luscious mature cheeses before moving onto the Cantine – a beautiful Enoteca supplying every make of wine marketed in Tuscany!

Drinking in Greve

Drinking in Greve

Lunch – simple and delicious food cooked by David’s wife and mother at Montigliari in the last of the morning sunshine – followed by an explanation from Filippo about ageing vinegar in the style of Modena (aka Balsamic) and how to create Vin Santo .

Greve in Chianti- balsamic vinegar            
Vin Santo store

Vin Santo store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greve in Chianti- NOT balsamic vinegar!

Finally we tried a new wine to me – but delicious – from Cennataio in their well hidden winery near Panzano.

The road was long windy and not made up – but the wine at the end made it “vale la pena di andarci!”

Our garden tour week begins on Sat 12th May with wine , nibbles and an introductory seminar by Katie Campbell on some of the places that we will visit. The programme ends on Friday 18th

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