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Traditionally, May is the month of the roses, the one when most of the ancient varieties and botanical species bloom. On the other hand, modern cultivars continue to do so even in winter, or briefly stop during summer, only to resume blooming in September, when the air gets cooler.
Here’s our selection of the most beautiful rose gardens. Please note that some of them require reservations, so make sure to book your visit in advance. Also keep in mind that many nurseries specialized in roses have a garden dedicated to those beautiful flowers, from which there is always a lot to learn.
In Piedmont, you’ll be mesmerized by “La Rosaiola” and the “Rose Garden of Surprise”. “La Rosaiola” is in Pertengo, a small town in the province of Vercelli, home of rice paddies. That nursery includes an Italian garden, geometric and regular, made by flower beds bordered by pruned hedges, as well as a dedicated rose garden, inspired by the popular belief about the Holy Mary appearing in that very area.
There are about a hundred roses in the nursery collection, including many creeping specimens mixed with shrubs, grasses, perennial herbaceous plants and boxwood; the latter has been modelled with topiary renditions of animals and human shapes, such as the large horse and jockey about to jump. There are also several perennial types of grass and herbaceous shrubs.
The “Rose Garden of Surprise” (“Roseto della Sorpresa”) is in Castell’Alfero, a village located on a hill at the entrance to Valle Versa, where Giovan Battista De Rolandis, the very designer of the Italian flag, was born in 1774. “Roseto della Sorpresa” is part of the slightly wild-looking garden of a XIX century country house, with a small forest of oaks, hornbeams, limes, walnuts, hackberries and large beech trees. In some thirty years, Professor Piero Amerio created a collection of botanical and ancient roses, which has now reached 500 varieties, including about 100 <em>Rosa gallica</em>, as well as <em>Rosa centifolia</em>, <em>Rosa x alba</em>, Damask and Portland roses, “Bourbon”, “Noisette”, wrinkled Chinese specimens, perpetual hybrids, and a hundred of the first modern roses, now almost forgotten.
Three natural wonders are not to be missed in Liguria: the Hanbury Botanical Garden in Ventimiglia, the Rose Garden of Nervi and the small Rose Garden of Murta, near Genoa.
The first was built by Sir Thomas Hanbury and his brother Daniel, and now belongs to the University of Genoa; Hanbury Botanical Garden covers 45 acres on the promontory of La Mortola, overlooking the sea: it’s a wonderful example of a garden of acclimatization, which features plant species from all over the world. There are many important areas within the garden: the Australian Forest, the succulent plant section, the Perfume Garden, the Exotic Orchard, the Citrus groves, and the collections of acacias, agaves, aloes, rock roses, passion flowers, sages, ancient and botanical roses.
The Rose Garden of Nervi (GE), built inside the Nervi Park, has hosted the “Genoa Prize” international rose competition since 1985; it is also very popular thanks to its collection of citrus fruits and it includes several themed areas: the ancient rose garden, the modern rose garden, the competition rose garden (where the participating roses are transplanted and the best of them stay permanently), the berry roses area, and the scenographic rose garden.
Roseto di Murta can be found within a small, abandoned cemetery protected by walls, on the hills of Val Polcevera (GE). It was created by the “QuellicheaTrastacistannobene” Association, which first got rid of brambles and brushwood, then planted ancient Chinese and Tea roses, as well as remarkable varieties of other species among the statues, the paths and many architectural elements of the Liberty period. This rose garden has turned the towns of Trasta and Murta into a popular tourist destination and given Val Polcevera a little piece of paradise on Earth, thanks to the efforts of the local community which deeply treasure its heritage, history and identity.
In Lombardy, the Rose Garden of the Royal Villa of Monza is absolutely worth a visit: commissioned by the entrepreneur Niso Fumagalli, who was extremely fond of floriculture and roses, this beautiful garden in is home to an important international rose competition every month of May. Today, it features 4000 varieties of roses, created by breeders from all over the world.
Ca ‘delle Rose is a romantic B&B facility, surrounded by a delightful rose garden which includes antique furnishings, an outdoor lounge, a bower, some pergolas with old roses, and a <em>Pomarium</em>. Guests can buy and enjoy several products made with the organically-grown Damask Roses and <em>Rosa Moschata</em>, biodynamic drinks and foods, aperitifs, herbal teas or coffee with rose-flavoured cakes.
The Rose Garden of San Bellino, in the province of Rovigo, was built in 2008 by the enthusiast couple who owns it: it is dedicated to ancient, shrubby and climbing roses, planted among apple trees and irises. There are about 200 roses, belonging to about fifty different varieties, including the XIX century specimens, <em>Rosa gallica officinalis</em> (now extinct in nature), <em>Centifolia Muscosa</em> (dating back to 1600), and <em>Rosa celsiana</em> (featuring an intense fragrance and introduced in Europe during the Crusades).
In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, we’d like to recommend “Castello delle Rose” in Cordovado, near Pordenone, and the Rose Garden of San Giovanni, in Trieste.
The park of the castle of Cordovado, built in the XI century on a Roman settlement, now houses a fragrant labyrinth, exclusively made of damask roses, and many other ancient roses. However, as they are all single-flowering varieties – remember it for next spring.
Roseto di Trieste, on the other hand, includes ancient and modern roses, so it is worth visiting even in September-October, also thanks to its romantic atmosphere. Located in the San Giovanni district, after painstaking careful restorations it has eventually returned to its original English garden appearance, with large trees, paths, stairways, tree-lined avenues, lawns, flower beds, pergolas, and escarpments covered with roses. It houses 5.000 varieties, ancient and modern ( including some that are no longer on the market), obtained from English, German, French, Dutch, American and Japanese hybrid specialists, as well as climbing species and a special collection of roses dating back to the Liberty and/or Art Noveau period ( 1888-1925): they’re arranged in symmetrical flower beds, on the sides of the path softened by arches covered with climbing roses.
In Trentino-Alto Adige, you will find the highest rose garden in Europe: Rosarium Uhrerhof. Located in Bulla, between the municipality of Ortisei in Val Gardena and the Alpe di Siusi, at about 5.250 ft above sea level, it belongs to the Zemmer family, the same owner of the nearby Charme Hotel Uhrerhof. That garden was born in 2009 when Lotte Zemmer was introduced to roses by one of his customers, a salesman working for a German company. The latter was specialized in roses obtained from the Kordes breeder, which can withstand high altitudes and harsh climates. Divided into terraces, the garden now hosts about 5.000 roses, belonging to 150 varieties. The best season to visit it is between July and September when the flowers are in full blooming.
In Emilia Romagna, we’d like to recommend the Garden of the Ancient Rose Museum in Serramozzoni, near Maranello (MO), and “Roseto La Rosa nel Tempo” in Faenza (RA).
The museum (“Museo Giardino della Rosa Antica”) can be found within a 106-acre property on the hills; it collects more than 3.600 roses belonging to 750 ancient varieties, planted in a historical-botanical order, as well as several species of the local spontaneous flora, inserted in a wonderful landscape. The Museum organizes pruning and rose cultivation courses, and sells the very plants grown in its garden.
” Roseto La Rosa nel Tempo ” is a rose garden created by a group of teachers from the Persolino Agricultural Institute of Faenza, in collaboration with the Faculty of Agriculture of the local University. 9.567 square yards are hosts about 500 roses, belonging to 100 different varieties, including ancient European specimens such as <em>Rosa Gallica</em> ‘Versicolor’ (dating back to the XII century), ancient Asian varieties, and brand new ground covering roses, experimentally grown without any irrigation, fertilizers or pruning.
Quite unexpectedly, Lazio is full of rose garden as well: let’s start in Rome with the “Aventino municipal rose garden”, a very traditional botanical facility with more than 1.100 varieties and species of roses arranged with a very formal style. Among those flowers, visitors will find some very ancient roses, which originally bloomed in Paestum and Pompeii, as well as botanical and modern specimens, including the participants in the “Rome Prize”, and those that, since 1933, have won this event.
In Tivoli, there’s the splendid “Baroque garden of Villa d’Este”, famous for its water and sound effects; for some years it has hosted a collection of mostly ancient shrubs and climbing roses, taxonomically arranged.
In Bracciano, namely in the large estate of Palazzo Patrizi, there are flowering shrubs, aromatic herbs and majestic trees, as well as another beautiful collection of roses, shrubs and vines – all painstakingly cared for by the enthusiast owner of the estate.
Between Rome and Rieti, in the historic region of Sabina, there’s “Roseto Vacunae Rosae” hidden on sloping land belonging to “La Tacita” estate; it offers a historical, cultural and artistic journey into the world of roses. Water is a fundamental element in this meditation garden, with several fountains, pools and the mesmerizing labyrinth of roses.
Cisterna di Latina offers what is commonly acknowledged as one of the most beautiful sites in the world: the “Garden of Ninfa”, recognized as a Natural Monument by the Lazio Region in 2000.
Featuring the English romantic style, it dates back to 1500, when the Cardinal Nicolò III Caetani, a lover of botany, decided to build it. It was later destroyed and rebuilt several times, while it took on its current appearance in the first thirty years of the XX century – thanks to Gelasio Caetani, his mother Ada Wilbraham, his son Roffredo Caetani, his wife Marguerite Copin, and their daughter Lelia Caetani Howard. The latter, in particular, added several magnolias, flowering Prunus and many climbing roses, which still grow on the ancient ruins and on the trees, creating eye-catching corners of poignant beauty.
In Ardea (Tor San Lorenzo), we’d strongly recommend visiting “Landriana Gardens”: created by Marquise Lavinia Taverna and designed by the famous Russell Page, these gardens feature several themed areas (the grey garden, the blue lawn, the valley of roses, the olive garden, the orange garden, the rock garden, the white valley, and the lake). There are also some collections of hydrangeas, heather, camellias, ancient and Chinese roses, mixed with lavender, thyme and carnations. “Landriana Gardens” host two flower market-exhibitions in October and in April.
Tuscany offers three magnificent rose gardens: the Rose Garden and the rose collection of “Giardino dei Semplici Botanical Garden” in Florence, and “Carla Fineschi Botanical Rose Garden”, in Cavriglia (Arezzo).
The Rose Garden is a real delight, nestled under Piazzale Michelangelo. Built at the end of the XIX century, on the occasion of some renovation works on the left bank of the Arno, it was entrusted by the Municipality to the architect Giuseppe Poggi. The garden currently features about a thousand varieties of roses. The peculiar and perfectly camouflaged irrigation system uses a tank located high up in the woods, behind the loggia of Piazzale Michelangelo, and a special pipeline that serves the inlets in the garden. In 1998, the garden was enriched with a Japanese section (the “Shorai”) created by the Japanese architect Yasuo Kitayama and officially donated by the city of Kyoto (from the Zen Kodai-Ji temple), twinned with Florence. In the centre of this botanical facility, there’s the “Giardino dei Semplici” garden, full of greenhouses and several plant collections including many ancient and modern roses.
“Carla Fineschi Botanical Rose Garden” is a very famous private collection: since 1967 it has collected over 6.000 species, cultivars and hybrids of roses from all over the world. It should be visited several times a year, because it’s quite huge and there are different blossoming seasons: botanical and ancient varieties bloom only once towards the end of April, while the modern ones begin in May and go on until mid-June and then again in September-October.
Finally, Umbria is where you can discover four beautiful private gardens full of roses:
“Giardino delle Cento Rose”, in Budino, near Foligno (PG): the owner, Andrea Emiliani, agronomist and gardener, cultivates 650 different varieties, including 216 English Roses by David Austin (it is certainly one of the largest collections in the world, mixed with iris, daylilies, peonies and many other flowering perennials;
the very romantic “Garden of Helga Brichet”, in Santa Maria in Portella, a few miles from Todi: it features the largest collection of Chinese roses in Europe;
“Lizza Garden”, located on the hills around Todi, between Orvieto and Spoleto: the set designer Gerardo Lizza, who owns it, has planted many roses, including ‘Fantin Latour’, ‘M.me Carrière’, ‘General Shablikine’, ‘Le Vesuve’, a specimen of <em>Rosa x odorata</em> ‘Mutabilis’ next to the road, a wonderful <em>Rosa x bracteate</em> ‘Mermaid’ covering a roof of tiles, shrubs and perennials of the Mediterranean scrub, as well as flowering cherry trees, lime trees, wisteria, pomegranates, meadowsweets, and lilacs;
“Ducrot Garden”, in Corbara, a fraction of Orvieto: created by Isabella and Vicky Ducrot, it offers a collection of over 3.000 roses: ancient, botanical, modern, bushy, climbing, rambler varieties, and many other herbaceous and shrubby plants.
This post is also available in: Italian