23 – 30 April 2019
Concentrating on the wealth of beautiful gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore, the tour gives a balance between interesting botanic gardens and those of classic Renaissance and later Italian style. The exuberant spring flowers are set against breath-taking scenery with many varieties of azalea, wisteria, cornus and magnolia – a spectacular yellow variety is particularly eye-catching. At the northern end of Lake Maggiore we cross into Switzerland to visit the impressive Eisenhut Botanical Garden and nursery. An insubric climate, acid soil and sunny cold winters enable the rich variety of plants found in the region to thrive.
The first few days are spent on Lake Como at the delightful, family-run Hotel Firenze in the lakeside village of Bellagio, overlooking the beautiful lake and snow-capped mountains. We then transfer to the very comfortable Hotel Cannero on the beautiful Maggiore lakeside, run by Signora Gallinotto and her family to a very high standard.
Beat Fischer, our Swiss botanist, leads the tour with his usual enthusiasm. Beat was formerly curator of the University Botanical Gardens in Bern and has led tours for us for some years.
The Provencal landscape of farmhouses or mas, vineyards and typical unspoilt villages sets the scene as we pass along avenues of majestic plane trees. Our visits encompass both traditional farmhouse-style gardens and contemporary, Mediterranean country gardens, some influenced by Nicole de Vesian, modern local landscape architects and the Land Art movement. Most gardens are privately owned. Wild poppies in the cornfields, roses and lavender abound. The craggy limestone Alpilles are a focal point around St Rémy, while the forested Luberon hills have perched hill-top villages. A visit to the Camargue has been added, not to be missed when in the region.
We stay for the first few days at Château de Mazan on the edge of the medieval village of Mazan, moving afterwards to the attractive town of St Rémy-de-Provence at the foothills of les Alpilles. Hotel de l’Image has its attractive garden and pool. Train travel available – London to Avignon.
The Medici created gardens in Florence and the surrounding hills in the sixteenth century with grottoes, statues, boschetti and waterworks. Later perspective gardens were designed in conjunction with the villa, often with terraces, and the early twentieth century marked the revival of the Italian formal garden. This rich heritage offers a fascinating programme of visits in the spring flowering season. The gardens chosen are mostly private and form a good balance encompassing the different periods. The vibrant city of Florence with its art treasures, churches and markets is an additional attraction.
Our comfortable, welcoming hotel in the heart of Florence is a perfect base, a few minutes from the Duomo. Originating as a palazzo in the sixteenth century, and now well restored, it retains its frescoed ceilings and architectural features.
28 September – 05 October 2017
Springtime in Sicily – the mythic garden of Persephone – is abundant with colour and luminosity. We visit gardens in the east of the island, some created by the English in former times, others planted more recently, and add some cultural elements to the programme.
An island of great contrasts, Sicily has been invaded by the Greeks, Romans, Normans and Spaniards, who have all influenced its culture and character. The warm spring weather encourages luxuriant growth on terraced hillside gardens, the dramatic sweeping green hills of the interior have an abundance of wild flowers.
We stay at the most comfortable, welcoming Hotel Villa Belvedere, in the attractive town of Taormina perched high above the sea, and with a verdant garden. Superb views overlook the bay and Mount Etna. The island of Ortigia is our base for a few days in a beautiful historical part of Siracusa at the well-situated Grand Hotel.