When Men Meet Nature: The Great Italian Gardens

Pages and pages have been written about the wonders of the Italian gardens and, to really understand these, it is crucial to get into the Renaissance.

The Great (Green) Beauty

Great things are done when men and nature meet, we should say mangling William Blake’s words.

Undeniably, nature has always played a central role in human life, especially when we think about holidays and tourism. That is why the so-called ‘horticultural travel’ is getting more and more important, in Italy as well as abroad. This new kind of slow tourism has its raison d’ être in the fact that nature, at any age, has some sort of healing powers on us, it makes our feelings bloom and we are often mesmerized while watching it.

For example, gardens are the perfect place to find peace and contemplate beauty, the halfway point between human creations and nature. In this context, the Grandi Giardini Italiani (Great Italian Gardens) are the absolute protagonists.

This circuit of excellence, founded in 1997 by Judith Wade, is composed of more than 120 Renaissance and contemporary gardens open to the public. This network attracts over 8 million visitors per year, boosting this already rising sector and highlighting the Italian environmental and landscape resources, thanks to the high standards of maintenance and management required to become part of it.

The best way to celebrate last year’s twentieth anniversary was undoubtedly to incorporate eight new entries, from the Terme di Levico park in Trentino to Villa Grock in Liguria, Casa Cuseni in Taormina and Villa Pallavicini Revel on Lake Como.

Vatican Gardens, Vatican City.

Italian Renaissance gardens and their origins

Pages and pages have been written about the wonders of the Italian gardens and, to really understand these, it is crucial to get into the Renaissance. During the 15th and the 16th centuries, gardens and parks’ rational organization of elements reflected the world view in those times, when the relationship between human and divine was hierarchical but with each element interrelated.

The result is a harmonious combination of geometric shapes, symmetry, architectural features like statues, fountains, pergolas, water works and balustrades, all set up with an axial arrangement which gives a strong visual structure. Thus, these green areas turned into the most striking image of the great cultural flowering involving the entire peninsula.

Historically, the first Italian gardens with this geometric style are attribuited to Niccolò Tribolo, who designed the gardens of Boboli, Villa Castello and Villa Corsini in Florence. We can say that English and French gardens drew their inspiration from these. Now, it is easy to understand why Judith chose Italy to start her business.

However, horticultural travel is something that goes beyond mere contemplation and sightseeing. Indeed, in many of these gardens, you can spend the night sleeping in there to wake up in the middle of old trees, blooming bushes and fairytale paths.

Giardino dei Signori, Bressanone. Credit: Bramfab

An Italian model of cultural heritage management

Data show a positive trend which is also ethically responsible and economically productive in terms of employment and managerial know-how of the ‘green’ in our country. For example, organizing events or guided tours brings visibility provides services related to the bare trip, distinguishing and optimizing the offer according to the various areas of interest ( botanical garden, art park, modern garden, landscape garden, historic garden, vegetable garden) in order to meet the needs of tourists. This could increasingly be an opportunity, not only for private investors and their business, but also for the whole country to improve the economy and show the World more good reasons to visit Italy.