Day 1 - 14 May 2020
Arrival & Check-In - Villa Malpensa Hotel, Milan.
Check-In to the Villa Malpensa Hotel (Milan) in time to meet your tour guide and fellow garden visitors over complimentary drinks between 1800-1900. Your tour leader will give you an overview of the tour and hand out a tour information booklet. The hotel is conveniently located near Milan Malpensa Airport.Make you own arrangements for Dinner at the Hotel’s excellent restaurant.
Day 2 - 15 May 2020
Gardens Visited : Villa Cigogna Mozzoni, Villa Taranto.
After breakfast and check-out we head north by luxury coach and our first destination: Villa Cigogna Mozzoni. With views over Lake Lugano, Villa Cigogna Mozzoni’s garden was commissioned in 1560 and inspired by the most famous gardens of Rome and Florence of the time. With frescoed Loggias, a Giardino Segreto (secret garden), a Grotto, a Nymphaeum and a water staircase, Villa Mozzoni is a rare example of an Italian Renaissance garden and is a fitting start to the tour. After lunch at a local restaurant we travel to the Giardini Botanici Villa Taranto. Set in 16 acres on the western shore of Lake Maggiore, Villa Taranto was established in 1931 by a Scotsman, Neil Boyd McEacharn. Beyond the grand entrance gates, we find fountains, waterfalls and terraced gardens from which we will have a fine view of the Pennine Alps. With more than twenty thousand varieties of plants here there is much to see! During our visit, Cornus Florida Rubra and Davidia Involucrata (Handkerchief Tree) should be in flower, the latter being a rare sight. Look out for "The Fisher“, a bronze statue by the Neapolitan artist Vincenzo Gemito and don’t forget to visit the greenhouses!At the end of the afternoon we leave Villa Taranto and check-in to Hotel Simplon, which will be our home for the next 4 nights. The hotel is next to Lake Maggiore and has a direct view of the Isola Madre which we visit tomorrow. Surrounded by a magnificent centuries old park, the hotel boasts a bar and excellent restaurant and there are plenty of other dining options nearby.
Day 3 - 16 May 2020
Gardens Visited: Isola Madre and Isola Bella
After breakfast we visit two very special gardens on Lake Maggiore: Isola Madre and Isola Bella. Isola Madre and Isola Bella were both owned by Count Carlo III Borromeo and are two of the three Borromeon islands. We travel to each by private launch which will stay with us throughout the day. Isola Madre is the largest of the two islands and had been used as an orchard, vineyard and hunting ground before its vegetation was cleared away to hold a collection of exotic trees and plants. Today there is a magnificent Palace on the Island surrounded by a garden which holds an important botanical collection. There is a rare Nolinia longifolia which is native to Central America, exotic trees such as the Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora), Pepper Trees (Schinus molle) and the rare Kashmir Cypress (Cupressus cashmeriana).After boarding our boat we head off to Isola dei Pescatori, the third Borromeon island on Lake Maggiore. Here, we will have a splendid lunch before travel to our second garden destination: Isola Bella. Isola Bella was transformed into a magnificent terraced garden in the 17th century and enlarged in the 19th century to include vast collections of plants from New Zealand, China, India, the Himalayas, South America and Australia ! The superb Italianate Baroque gardens complement perfectly the adjacent large Palace. We travel back to our hotel by boat.Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 4 - 17 May 2020
Gardens Visited: Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello
Today we travel to Lake Como to visit Villa Carlotta. Villa Carlotta was built in 1745 and overlooks the Bellagio peninsula on the northern shores of Lake Como. The Villa sits at the top of a terraced garden and is around 8 hectares (20 acres) in size. The garden has a number of different sections: a formal garden surrounding the Villa, an English style woodland garden, an Italian garden with cut hedges and pergolas with orange and camellia trees. Other plants of interest are cedars, palms, redwoods, plane trees, cork oaks, magnolias and other exotic plants. Rhododendrons and more than 150 varieties of azalea spread up the slope from the lakeside. The microclimate here makes the garden feel semi-tropical.After lunch, we travel by coach to visit the 18th century Villa del Balbianello. Famous for its elaborate terraced gardens, Villa del Balbianello sits at the end of a small wooded peninsula and allows for views down three branches of Lake Como. The garden here is kept in exemplary order, with pruned holm oaks, plane trees and masses of flowers the garden has an extremely romantic quality and is a place that you are never likely to forget!Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 5 - 18 May 2020
Gardens Visited - Villa Melzi and Villa Monastero
After a leisurely breakfast, we travel by coach to visit Villa Melzi in Bellagio on the north eastern shore of Lake Como. Villa Melzi sits adjacent to Lake Como and away from the tourist crowds attracted by the world famous town of Bellagio. As we arrive, we walk along an avenue of magnificently pruned plane trees to explore the botanical garden that surrounds the house. With more than 56 trees and plants of botanical interest there is much to see here. The Villa and garden are set in a superb sub-tropical location. The garden also has a number of interesting features: an Oriental garden, a Moorish Kiosk, a small museum in the old Orangerie, old greenhouses, a bamboo grove and chapel.After lunch we continue our journey by coach and visit Villa Monastero. The Villa was originally a medieval Cistercian convent dating from around 1200 AD. Over the years the house was improved and today includes a botanical garden, a museum and convention centre. Many exotic plants were brought to the garden: yuccas, palms, agaves, as well as cedars, camphor, Magnolia grandiflora and Monetezuma pine trees. The gardens themselves are long and narrow and sit between the lake and the mountain at the back of the Villa. Throughout the garden there are urns and statues, pleasant avenues to walk along bounded by terraces and box-edged parterres. This is a splendid garden set in a privileged position.Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 6 - 19 May 2020
Gardens Visited - Isole di Brissago (Switzerland) & Wine Tasting.
After breakfast and check-out, we take our coach and travel to visit Isole di Brissago, a group of two islands in the Swiss part of Lake Maggiore. We are going to visit the botanical garden on Grande Isola, the larger of the two islands. Set in 2.5 hectares of land, more than 1,700 species of plant are cultivated here. With a favourable microclimate, plants from the Mediterranean, Chile, South Africa, Southwest Australia and California and of humid subtropical climate (Asia, North and South America and Oceania) all grow well on the Island. Among them, we will find more familiar varieties such as azaleas, rhododendrons, Japanese palm trees, numerous camellias, Japanese banana, bamboo, magnolia, agaves, cypress, yucca and California poppies. Like the other Islands we’ve visited on this tour, the location of this garden is superb.We’ll have lunch on the Island before travelling to a local vineyard where we will have a tasting of Nebbiolo wines before travelling back to Milan for the last night of the tour at the Villa Malpensa Hotel near Milan. Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel’s restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the concierge.
Day 7 - 20 May 2020
City to Visit Milan & Bosco Verticale garden
Checkout of our hotel will be 12 noon. For those staying in Italy or who want to extend their garden tour just a little longer we include an optional complimentary City Tour of Milan and a visit to the famous Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) - minimum 10 people. The Bosco Verticale is actually a pair of residential towers build in the Porta Nuova district of Milan as part of much wider urban regeneration project. The two buildings have 730 trees (480 large, 250 small), 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 perennials and ground covering plans on their facade. The total vegetation found on both of the buildings is about equivalent to that found in one hectare of woodland. The Bosco Verticale is an incredible sight and is a fitting end to this tour. We’ll say farewell to you mid-afternoon in time for your onward journey.
Day 8 - 20 May 2020
Arrival & Check-In - Novotel Milan Malpensa, Milan.
Check-In to the Novotel Milan Malpensa near Milan Malpensa Airport in time to meet your tour guide and fellow garden visitors over complimentary drinks between 1800-1900. Your tour guide will give you an overview of your tour and hand out a tour information booklet. Make you own arrangements for Dinner at the Hotel’s excellent restaurant.
Day 9 - 21 May 2020
Gardens Visited : Villa Medici La Petraia, Villa Castello di Medicea, Villa La Balze
After breakfast and check-out we head south into Tuscany to Villa Castello di Medicea. This was the country residence of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519-1574). The garden is of great historical importance: it had a significant influence both on the development of the Italian Renaissance garden as well as the French formal garden. The garden is full of symbolism which will be explained to you by your tour leader. One of the wonders of the garden is the hydraulic system which allowed for water to be transported around the garden and which was used to power its many fountains and water features. Look out for the fountains of Hercules and Antaeus, Florence and the Grotto of the Animals. The garden was also famous for its collection of dwarf citrus trees and its walled herb garden where medicinal herbs were grown. After Villa Castello di Medicea we’ll walk a short distance to Villa Medici La Petraia, the second of three gardens that we will visit today. Once the home of King Vittorio Emmanuele II of Savoy, Villa Petraia dates from 1537 although there has been a house on this site since 1300. The garden was originally laid out in three terraces - the Terrace of the Little Statue, a Giardino Segreto (secret garden) with parterres and a lower terrace used as a formal orchard. The garden was modified by King Vittorio Emmanuele to be more in keeping with 18th century taste but has now been partially restored to recapture some of the glory of its past. Look out for the famous status of ‘Venus Wringing out her Hair’ by Giambologna.After lunch, we travel by luxury coach to visit the third garden of the day: Villa Le Balze. Villa Le Balze, sits in the hills above Florence next to a 15th century Medici Villa. The villa was built in 1913 by Charles Augusts Strong and is now owned by Georgetown University. The garden is set on various levels and breaks from the rules of the traditional Italian Renaissance garden. As we enter through a small door, we find a formal garden with boxwood hedging outlining geometric shapes. Here was once a citrus garden. As you walk around the garden notice how it merges perfectly into the natural landscape of the hillside and surrounding fields. It has superb views over Florence and includes a grotto and many other features of interest.After our visit, we travel by coach to nearby Siena and check into the excellent 4* Executive Hotel for the next 4 nights of the tour. This hotel has recently been renovated and is perfectly located for you to explore the beautiful town of Siena. The hotel has a restaurant and bar but there are also plenty of excellent dining options nearby.
Day 10 - 22 May 2020
Itinerary: City Visit to Florence, Boboli Gardens.
After breakfast, we’ll travel to Florence where we will meet our local guide for an extensive walking tour of the city. Our guide will take us to all the most important historical sites and tell us about the bankers, architects, artists and political figures who led the Renaissance and influenced much of the recent history of Western Europe. After lunch, we visit the Boboli gardens. The Boboli gardens, with their splendid view across Florence are located next to the Pitti Palace, the main seat of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The gardens were originally for the sole use of the Medici family and were laid out in formal Renaissance style. There are long avenues, statues, fountains, grottos, a nymphaeum, temples and other features characteristic of Renaissance gardens of the time. The gardens are very large - explore the gardens on your own (with a map!) or accompanied by your tour leader.After our visit to Florence, we return to our hotel in Siena. Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 11 - 23 May 2020
Gardens Visited: Villa La Foce and Wine Tasting
Today we’ll visit the superb garden at Villa La Foce. Built on the site of a 15th century Inn, Villa La Foce is the life’s work of Antonio and Iris Origo who bought the then derelict house and its 3000 hectares (7413 acres) of Iand in 1924. The couple employed the English architect Cecil Pinsent to extend the house and design the garden which is said to be one of Pinsent’s best creations. Today, it’s made up of four distinct areas overlooking the Val d’Orca (Orca Valley) and the volcanic peak of Monte Amiata (Amiata Mountain). There is a formal Italian garden surrounding the house, informal terraces, established cherry trees, pines and a long cypress avenue. The signature plant at Villa La Foce is wisteria and it should be at its best during our visit.Any tour to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without wine tasting. We leave Villa La Foce and travel to the medieval town of Radda in the chianti wine making region of Tuscany just 15km north of Siena. Surrounded by vineyards, here we’ll have lunch and walk to one of the local wineries where we’ll taste a selection of the best Chianti Classico wines before we return to our hotel in Siena. Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 12 - 24 May 2020
Gardens Visited: Villa Reale di Marlia, City Visit Lucca, Palazzo Pfanner, Villa Torrigiani.
After breakfast, we travel to visit perhaps one of our favorite gardens: the 17th century Villa Reale di Marlia. At the foot of the Pizzorne hills this villa is set in 16 acres of secluded gardens and is considered as being one of the most important properties in Italy. The Park features a splendid Water Theatre, a Green Theatre (where the composer Paganini performed), a Lemon Garden with a group of marble statues depicting Leda and the Swan, an Art Deco Spanish Garden as well as a Nymphaeum. We will have plenty of time to explore this superb garden and soak up their history and grandeur. It will be an experience that you are unlikely to ever forget! Afterwards, travel to Lucca where we will meet our local guide for a walking tour of the city. Surrounded by mountains, forests and farmland, Lucca is the birthplace of Puccini and famous for the well-preserved 16th and 17th ramparts that encircle it. Throughout the centuries Lucca has been an important hub for trade, religion and scholarship and has attracted many wealthy families who built houses (and established gardens) outside of the city walls. Our guide will take us to all the most important historical sites of the city and to our second garden visit of the day: Palazzo Pfanner. Palazzo Pfanner is nestled next to the city ramparts and has an important Italian-style baroque garden which has been the set of many Hollywood movies. With laurel hedges set in among yews, magnolias, peonies, antique camellias, begonias and roses, this garden with its cooling fountains is an oasis away from the bustle of the city centre.After lunch (not included) we take our coach and travel a short distance to visit the impressive Villa Torrigiani. The formal gardens surrounding Villa Torrigiani were originally designed by Le Notre. Two elements of the original design remain today – a fishpond and two basins. Transformed into an English landscaped park in the early 19th century, there are numerous features of interest here for the visitor: a sunken walled ‘secret’ garden of flora, a Nymphaeum of Winds and an amusing use of hidden water jets. The Villa itself, with its unusual multicolored façade will be a memorable end to the day.After our visit to Villa Torrigiani we return to our hotel in Siena. Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 13 - 25 May 2020
Gardens Visited: City Visit Siena, Villa Chighi Cetinale
After breakfast and checkout, we stay in Siena where we will meet our local guide for a walking tour of the city on this the penultimate day of the tour. The historic centre of Siena has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the as the main town in the region is famous for its cuisine, art and museums. Our guide will take us through the medieval streets and point out the most important sites. After our tour, we leave Siena and travel to Villa Chighi Cetinale where we will have an exclusive lunch before we start our visit to its garden. Villa Chighi Cetinale was designed in the 17th century by the architect Carlo Fontana in the Roman Baroque style. It became a symbol of the wealth and power of the Chighi banking family. While it retains nearly all of its original features it has one of the most successful ‘English gardens’ in the whole of Italy: arbours, peonies, roses, irises and perennials fit perfectly into these ancient surroundings.At the end of a full day, we travel south by coach leaving Tuscany and heading towards our hotel near Rome airport. Check-in to the Golden Tulip Rome for the last night of the tour.
Day 14 - 26 May 2020
Departure or continue your garden tour with us
Checkout of the hotel will be 12 noon in time for your onward travel. If you would like to stay in Italy a little longer, why not join us on our tour to Rome? Starting today (26th May), we visit the most important gardens of Rome and its surrounding area. Click here for more details of the tour.