The Alhambra and Generalife gardens in Granada, Spain are the most famous examples of Moorish garden style (and also the most visited). However, like the palaces around which they were built, they have been altered over many centuries. The exterior of the palaces have remained plain and austere and the column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools are used to add to the aesthetic and functional complexity. As a garden designer one hopes to be fortunate enough to make a pilgrimage here once in a lifetime…
The most wonderful garden discoveries are usually the ones behind closed doors and gates. Inner courtyards are full of hidden treasures and I often find myself inside these private spaces and pretending not to understand any signs or symbols regarding entry. Here I came upon such a treasure in Genova, Italy (that’s me in the center with my two eldest sons), amazed how such an elaborate terraced garden is used as a parking area for the employees of the surrounding bank building.
The gardens of villa Monastero are a bit more lavish than those of villa Cipressi. This site dates back to 1200 a.d. when it was founded as a convent. The house which still stands (dated 1569 a.d.) is also open for visitors. However, with the breathtaking views of the lake, the palm plantings, fountains, tile porticos, etc, who would not want to spend every moment discovering more…
On our first trip to Italy after moving to Europe, we were happy to leave the cold and rainy Bavarian April weather behind to feel the warmth of the south as we crossed the Alps. When we arrived late in the evening in the small fishing village of Varenna on Lake Como it was too dark to see the sycamores in the village square just leafing out. As we dragged our luggage over thousands of cobblestones and up the famous stairs of Varenna we found our tiny apartment overlooking the lake. We couldn’t have picked a better place to stay as the location allowed us to explore the entire region on foot, by ferry, and by train to Milan.
Two of the highlights for me were Varenna’s subtropical gardens; Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. The villa Cipressi (now a hotel) has terraced gardens down to the lake which one can enter for a small fee.
Besides the blooming wisteria there was so much beauty and mystery to be found in this garden. With the view of lake Como below, it is a magical place and well worth a visit for adults and children alike.
(roll-over the images below to read their descriptions)