On all of my travels I indulge my senses by exploring the local gardens, waterfalls, and city and national parks. The true beauty of each country comes through not just in the traditions of foods and architecture, but in nature’s bounty surrounding you. I have traveled through Florence several times over the past 20 years and spending time in its gardens is one of my favorite past times. Behind the old city wall of Florence is a hidden jewel, a secret garden so to speak, just waiting for you to peek inside. Visiting I Giardini Torrigiana has been something I have been wanting to do since I first learned of their existence, and I would recommend a visit to everyone. The garden is Europe’s largest privately owned garden within city limits.
The gardens, including an English style garden, a fairy tale-like tower and bridge, and green houses, new and old, have witnessed centuries of change. The villa and land have been in the Torriagina family since the 16th century. While as an American I am able to can trace my family back to Italy, Germany, and England; Veiri, the owner, has the joy of walking along paths of ancient trees planted and stone “temples” designed by his very own ancestors. He lives in the villa built in the 17th century, and shares the land with many generations of his family.
It is not just the charming nature that brings this space to life, it is Vieri himself. His name, a popular Florentine name (Oliver to English-speakers), can be traced back to the word for “olive” and, is very fitting; coming from the root of a tree that has played a significant part of the region’s history. Vieri, who guides visitors on private tours himself, feels deeply connected to the land and the trees he tends. Having learned hands-on as a child and studied agriculture and botany as a young adult, Vieri’s life has been dedicated to plants and he now runs the nursery on the property as his business. He was recently joined in the business by his son, and their passion and love for what they do is evident as I watch them communicate among the greenhouses.
As you stroll through the acres of greenery, Vieri tells tales that breathe life into the very paths you walk. He tells of the land’s history as it came into his family, as well as the story of his family’s businesses over the years selling wine, imported furs, and banking. Your imagination will take you away as he tells of soldiers occupying the villa during the war and of his ancestors that built the neo-gothic tower bearing the family crest.
Walking through this garden is like breathing in part of Florence’s history. Vieri gives a voice to each tree, flower, and fruit. Like an artist, he paints you a picture to take home with you. The sights, the smells, the stories will stay with me as a memory of Florence forever.
Vieri offers private tours to small groups for a cost when he is available, and for an additional fee visitors can enjoy tea in the villa afterwards . Be sure to make reservations in advance of your trip to enjoy this special experience for yourself.
Review by Rachel Simpson Pfaff, Ginda’s youngest daughter
All images and reviews copyright 2017 by Ginda Simpson