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Isola del Garda

Listed under Gardens in Lombardy - Lakes, Italy.

  • Photo of Isola del Garda
  • Photo of Isola del Garda
  • Photo of Isola del Garda
Photo of Isola del Garda
Photo by flickr user Giustino
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This is a small island on Italy’s Lake Garda: privately owned, it has only very recently opened to the public. It has been inhabited since Roman times - with a short respite as a game reserve during the decline of the Empire - by an ever changing stream of monks (including St Francis of Assisi who built a hermitage on the island in the thirteenth century), scholars, soldiers and, more recently, a number of the oldest families in Italy (including the Dukes of Ferrari and Prince Scipione Borghese).

The house (an extravagantly designed neo-gothic villa ) and gardens were commissioned and laid out between 1880 and 1900. The island is only a few hundred metres long, so we are not talking rolling acres, but it manages to pack a great deal into a small space. It divides into multi-layered formal gardens that skitter around the skirts of the Villa (some of the house is actually built underneath the garden) and the woodland beyond.

The formal area consists of a series of clipped parterres marking out geometric patterns and the coats of arms of the de Ferrari family (who initially developed the gardens) and some artificial stuccoed caves planted with Canary Palms. Planted around and amongst the formal areas are an interesting mixture of roses and tall columnar Cypress. The lower terraces are dotted with fruit trees including pomegranates, capers and jujube as well as the various citrus trees that you would normally expect. The rest of the island consists of a captivating mixture of mature trees, grassed clearings and, in particular, the most fantastic grove of swamp cypress dabbling their long horny toes in the waters of the lake.

Unusual architecture, interesting plants, an unique site and the majesty of Lake Garda - just a few very good reasons for a visit.

Written by  James Alexander-Sinclair.

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