Exploring The Japanese Gardens Of Italy

As spring approaches, here are some recommendations to put you in the mood for sakura and the changing of the seasons.

Japanese Gardens of Italy with sakura
Cherry blossom in Japan. Photo: AJ on Unsplash.

In 1873, at the Vienna World’s Fair, the Japanese government created the first overseas Japanese garden. It featured a miniature river, oak and fir bonsai trees, bamboo, stone lanterns, a Japanese house and small temples, very much like the Japanese gardens that we still see today.

They serve as a way of exhibiting the different aesthetics and philosophies behind Japanese gardening, but also as a cultural export to people around the world, for people to enjoy a small aspect of Japan in their own countries. Most major cities around the world are host to a Japanese garden, and Italy has a few notable examples which are great for a quiet stroll of contemplation or for hanami during the cherry blossoms season.

(Note: 🌸 indicates where to find cherry trees)

Florence

Japanese Garden, Rose Garden

If you walk through Florence’s Rose Garden you’d be surprised to stumble across a small pocket of Japan, given by their twinned town of Kyoto in 1998. The Shorai Oasis garden was designed by Japanese architect Yasuo Kitayama in the karesansui-style, meaning a dry landscape which predominantly features gravel and rocks, anchored with a large pine tree in the center, and now a small water feature and a tea pagoda.

Viale Giuseppe Poggi, 2, 50125 Firenze FI

Marche

WabiSabi Culture Zen Garden, San Ginesio

This bio-ryokan in Marche creates a full, authentic Japanese experience in the Italian countryside. Guests can check in for tea ceremonies, zen meditation, bio aromatherapy, and ofuro bath, set against a backdrop of Japanese wabi sabi in a rock garden made of black and white Italian Montorfano granite, interspersed with monoliths of serpentine stone (which allegedly repels negative energy, attracts positive energy, and helps with meditation and healing).

Via Papa Giovanni XXIII, 62026 San Ginesio MC

Milan

Teresa Pomodoro Zen Garden, Piazza Piola 🌸

Unveiled in April 2021 in memory of Milanese actress Teresa Pomodoro, who died in 2008. The Zen garden was created as part of a regeneration project by Teatro No’hma, founded by the late actress in the late 90s, and features 21 cherry blossom trees and installation pieces designed by the son of the late Japanese artist Kengiro Azuma – a close friend of Teresa’s and a Milanese by adoption.

Giardini pubblici – Piola, Piazzale Gabrio Piola, 20131 Milano MI

San Remo

Japanese Garden, Villa Ormond

Among the themed sections of Villa Ormond is a Japanese garden that emerged from the relationship between the twinned towns of Sanremo and Atami. Here you’ll find various species of bamboo, different kinds of Japanese pines and conifers, Japanese maple, flowering quince, and a Zen philosophy area for moments of quiet contemplation.

Corso Felice Cavallotti, 113, 18038 Sanremo IM

Rome

Japanese Garden, Botanical Gardens 🌸

The Botanical Gardens of La Sapienza university was founded in 1883, but the Japanese garden was only added in 1994. It’s constructed in the classical style, with an open wooden pavilion, a rocky pond that is fed by a small waterfall, and is surrounded by many fully-grown Japanese maple, cherry, and gingko trees. Also worth noting is the large bamboo collection in this part of the garden. Do note, you will need to pay an admission fee before entry.

Psg Gianicolo/Villa Corsini, 00165 Roma RM

Institute of Japanese Culture 🌸

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Within the grounds of the Institute of Japanese Culture is a garden designed by architect Ken Nakajima (who also designed the previously mentioned Japanese Garden in the Botanic Garden of Rome), and is the first created by a Japanese landscaper. The sen’en (meaning ‘garden with a pond’) style garden has a pond and waterfall, as well as rocks and bridges, and flowering trees like wisteria, magnolias, and cherry trees. Do note, booking in advance is required, but entrance is free.

Via Antonio Gramsci, 74, 00197 Roma RM

Special mention: Laghetto dell’EUR 🌸

It’s not a dedicated Japanese garden, but when the Prime Minister of Japan donates 2,500 cherry trees to the city of Rome as a gesture of goodwill (in 1959, the year before Italy would host the Olympics in the capital) we can make a special exception. They are planted around EUR lake, in what is called la passeggiata del Giappone, and each spring the cherry blossoms burst into life to create an Italian-style hanami.

Passeggiata del Giappone, 00144 Roma RM