We depart from London to Florence. On arrival we continue by comfortable coach to our first stop, the Corsini Gardens. The garden oasis lies within in the Palazzo Corsini al Prato. The Baroque style garden plays host to large orangeries; a gorgeous statue lined main path with pretty lemon trees potted in elegant vases; and sophisticated geometrical beds and box hedges.
We continue to our comfortable accommodation, a lovely four-star hotel in Florence. A welcome drink will be served in the evening followed by dinner.
Following breakfast, we visit the Boboli Gardens, particularly remarkable for their history, their formal layout, fountains, grottoes and collection of Roman, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures. Begun in 1549 the original design was by Tribolo and included terraces and many fine deciduous trees: planes, limes, chestnuts, field maples, elms and oaks. The garden was enlarged in 1612 and an island was created as a flower and lemon garden. In spite of its long history the Boboli Garden preserves most of its original Renaissance and Baroque layout and the fine collection of statues still remains.
We don’t have to travel very far to our next enchanting stop. The Bardini Gardens and Villa date back to the 14th century, and are something of an unknown treasure. Five years of hard work and 12 million euros went into their restoration – and the result is simply exquisite. The flower beds blossom with fragrant roses, crocuses and mimosa; while the luxuriant oak and cypress trees play host to wood pigeons, blackbirds and robins.
Enjoy some free time in Florence this afternoon. With so many art treasures to be found here in Florence it is difficult to know what to leave out in a short tour but if there is one unmissable visit it must be the Uffizi Gallery. The marvellous collection here spans over 600 years and includes works by Lippi, Cimbue, Duccio, Giotto and da Vinci, along with several works by Botticelli, including his Birth of Venus, Primavera and Madonna.
Depending on the departure you choose, there are two different options for Day 3 of our tour.
In May, we attend Florence’s popular annual Iris Festival. The iris is the symbol of the city, and the Giglio di Firenze is cultivated to bear the same distinct, deep red as the Florentine coat of arms. Iris rhizomes sent from across the globe are cultivated here, blooming together to create a cornucopia of colours and scents. The hybrids in competition for the prettiest and most original iris of the year awards are cultivated for upwards of three years prior to each festival.
We continue to the ancient Villa Medicea di Castello complex. The gardens were designed by Niccolò Tribolo in 1538. He went on to create the famous Boboli Gardens, which we visit on Day 2. The grounds are filled with decadent fountains and statuary, while the wonderful Citrus Garden is home to more than 500 rare plants. Most excitingly, there are also two beautiful secret gardens waiting to be discovered during our visit…
In September, we attend Murabilia in Lucca, one of the most anticipated events for Italian garden enthusiasts. Over two hundred exhibitors, from Italy and further afield, join together to present a unique exhibition and open-air market. The setting is worth a visit on its own – from the walls of Lucca with their tree-lined ramparts, to the pastoral meadows, and striking views over the city.
Our morning visit is perfectly complemented by a trip to Lucca’s lovely Botanical Gardens. They were founded by Duchess of Lucca, Maria Luisa of Bourbon in 1820. The garden was designed as journey around the world through a path of colour and perfume – with many beautiful species from distant countries, co-existing happily alongside a wealth of local flora and biodiversity.
Today, after breakfast, we spend a full day exploring the Etruscan town of Fiesole.
We begin with a visit to the gardens of Villa Gamberaia, which lie just to the east of Florence in unspoilt countryside. The intimate scale and irresistible charm of Gamberaia make this one of the most celebrated Italian villas; since its restoration in Edwardian times, the garden has been considered a masterpiece, with its box hedges, topiary, yew pillars and stunning flower beds. Gamberaia’s most famous feature is a water parterre to the south of the villa where, instead of flowerbeds, the box parterres contain pools of water. They are a twentieth century invention, but they are the crowning glory of a perfect baroque garden.
We end the day at the Villa e Giardino Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente. The complex and formal garden is composed of spacious parkland, woods and olive groves – which offer spectacular views of Florence to the south, and Castel di Poggio in the east. The garden is divided over several sloping terraces and features many of the plants associated with a traditional Italian garden, with many cypress trees dominating the landscape. Hydrangeas, potted lemon trees, and pots of azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons enhance the colour of the garden; while osmanthus scents fill the air during September.
Following breakfast, we visit the Pistoia Innocenti Nursery. We enjoy a guided tour of the nursery garden, which has been grown thanks to the love and dedication of three generations of the Innocenti family. Strolling through the nursery, we find trees of all sizes, hedging, Mediterranean fauna, multi-stemmed shrubs, Japanese macro bonsais and so much more.
Enjoy an afternoon at your leisure in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Magnetic, romantic and endlessly charming, Florence’s narrow streets and wine-rich hills are home to hundreds of stories. This is a perfect place to explore at leisure.
This morning we venture toward Siena to visit the 17th century Villa Cetinale. The gardens are renowned as some of the most beautiful in Italy. Discover an array of vine-covered pergolas, climbing roses, lilies, and irises. In the spring months the wisteria covers the villa walls and walkways in a sea of purple. Fields of poppies and wild flowers contrast with cypresses, olive trees and vineyards, and geometrically shaped flowerbeds lined with box hedges surround the citrus garden.
Tuscany is a renowned wine region; it would be wrong not to visit a vineyard during our tour, and nothing says Tuscany quite like Chianti. Tart, spicy and herbaceous, Chianti is as essential to Italian cuisine as extra virgin olive oil, and is delicious served alone, or alongside a plate of prosciutto or pasta al pomodoro. Traditionally, it was bottled in squat containers known as ‘fiasco’ – walking through the vines, and sampling this ruby red delight, we’re sure ‘fiasco’ will be the furthest idea from our minds.
Following breakfast, we check out of our hotel and transfer to the airport for our return flight to London.