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April 15, 2014 by Mary Palmer Leave a Comment One of the best parts of planning a new landscape design is digging through photos of gardens from all over the world – or even visiting them – to find the perfect blend of elements and styles for your property. Villa Gamberaia Because of excellent design and form, the gardens of the Villa Gamberaia are not only enjoyed by gardening enthusiasts, but they’re also officially studied by gardening professionals. Villa Gamberaia is without doubt the most perfect and romantic Italian garden in Tuscany.The presence of the Princess can be felt, you almost feel as if she is watching you or you are intruding in her private space.
Set high upon the crest of the hill, the Gamberaia stands above the adjacent agrarian countryside. Set on the hillside of Settignano, with extraordinary views of Florence and the surrounding Arno valley, the Villa Gamberaia is renowned for its splendid terraced garden. Villa Gamberaia itself was home to two artists in the first decades of the twentieth century: the Romanian Princess Jeanne Ghyka, who purchased the property in 1896, and her American companion Florence Blood. Villa Gamberaia is characterized now by 18th-century terraced garden.[1] The setting was praised by Edith Wharton,[2] who saw it after years of tenant occupation with its parterre planted with roses and cabbages, and by Georgina Masson,[3] who saw it restored by Sig. Mark Twain and his wife stayed at the Villa Viviani in Settignano from September 1892 to June 1893, and greatly enjoyed their visit.
In 1898, Gabriele d'Annunzio purchased the trecento Villa della Capponcina on the outskirts of Settignano, in order to be nearer to his lover Eleanora Duse, at the Villa Porziuncola. The preservation of the garden at Villa Gamberaia Edith Wharton astutely attributed to its "obscure fate" during the nineteenth century, when more prominent gardens with richer owners in more continuous attendance had their historic features improved clean away. To reach the Villa from Florence, you may take the bus number 10 directed to Settignano, from Piazza San Marco and go until the last stop in Settignano. It is possible to rent several holiday accommodations within the grounds of Villa Gamberaia. The villa, originally a farmhouse; was owned by Matteo Gamberelli at the beginning of the fifteenth century.
The villa already stood on its raised platform, extended to one side, where the water parterre is today. The Prince made a settlement of money to Jeanne in exchange for her permanent exile from both Paris and Bucharest, With the emotional support of her sister, Queen Natalie of Serbia, Jeanne returned in 1896 to the place of her youth, Florence. Through her Serbian connections, Natalie was able to rent a villino, or petite villa, on the estate of the Villa La Pietra, located just outside the walls of Florence. Schnadelbach exposes the engaging and intertwined lives of a group of expatriates, their secluded hillside villas and secret new gardens that ushered a new direction in garden design. Italian landscape architect Pietro Porcinai (1910-1986) brought modern garden design to a nation rooted in classic garden tradition.
The most famous stone-cutter became an artist of the first rank and was known as Desiderio da Settignano, a sculptor of the 15th century, whose statue stands triumphantly in the middle of the main square of the village. Villa Cahen has a well-equipped public park while the latter has the state-owned park with Villa Cahen, in Art Nouveau style, and the hidden jewel in the center of the Park. Pinsent began by making alterations to connoisseur Charles Alexander Loeser's Villa Torri Gattaia, in 1907; and went on to design gardens at Berenson's Villa I Tatti (1909-1914), Strong's Villa Le Balze (1911-1913), the Origos' La Foce (1927-1939) and Villa Capponi (from 1939). Walked over to Villa Gamberaia, found it neglected, unkempt, grass not mown, trees with branches broken looking like elephants with broken tusks, the house burnt out with the beautiful courtyard fallen in, vases and stone animals on parapet thrown down and broken - and yet the place retains its charm, its power to inspire longing and dreams, sweet dreams. Fifty years ago I began to frequent this paradise, then belonging to a narcissistic Rumanian lady who lived mysteriously in love with herself perhaps and certainly with her growing creation, the garden of the Gamberaia. The Villa Gamberaia of the Princess Ghyka era was a wonderfully small villa that the Princess endeavored to make only better. The Villa Gamberaia is a member of the Grandi Giardini Italiani, an association of major gardens in Italy. Since the earliest Roman settlements, Italians have been expertly cultivating their land into beautiful and creative displays of nature, where terraces and walkways, plants and flowers, water and statuary are combined to provide a unique ad inspiring setting.

So it can be no surprise that I had a difficult time staying indoors when there are so many famous gardens and landscapes to explore.
Published in 1904, and illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, Italian Villas and Their Gardens extols the magic that the combined forces of nature and art bestow upon the Italian garden. Located on a hillside in Settignano overlooking Florence and the surrounding Arno Valley, Villa Gamberia is one of the most famous gardens in the world. The design of Villa Gamberia is attributed to a series of owners who modified its plan while retaining the property’s design integrity. The detailed estate map (cabreo) seen above dates from the first half of the 18th century and combines with etchings by Giuseppe Zocchi (seen below) from 1744 to provide a detailed record of the villa, gardens and surrounding agricultural land during this period. Features highlighted that remain today include the formal Cyprus allee leading to the villa’s entrance, the nymphaeum of Neptune, the Gabinetto rustico and the upper lemon terrace and limonaia. From 1919 to 1920, Rome Prize winner Edward Lawson measured and drew a plan of the gardens.
In 1925, Villa Gamberaia was purchased by the widowed, American born Baroness von Ketteler who added both formal and architectonic elements to the garden, including the wide box borders. The villa and its garden were severely damaged in 1944 as the German army retreated from Italy.
Newton (who was a fixture in my studio class) provides an evocative description of the villa and gardens beginning with the approach from the village of Settignano where one passes through a tunnel in the narrow roadway leading to the villa’s recessed gateway.
Upon entering, a hedge bordered roadway leads to the villa, its forecourt and a wide side terrace lined with sculptures (including the canine below) providing a dramatic view of the countryside and the city of Florence. On the villa’s eastern side is a turf viale, a lawn that extends the length of the property and serves as a central axis connecting the cool and shaded cypress enclosed nymphaeum to a sweeping, balustraded overlook. Green architecture is masterfully employed at Villa Gamberaia… I love its Thuja green walls. You kindly avoided to show the poor state of the Esedra (I fear it’s not only a matter of time needed for the new plants to grow). Of course, with an array of timeless landscape design features, historic gardens are some of the best sources for garden inspiration. Begun in the 17th century with the building of the Villa, each owner over the centuries has made additions to the gardens and – remarkably – improved upon the design.
Built in the early 1600s and noted for its magnificent gardens, Villa Gamberaia is located about fifteen minutes by car from the center of the city.
Near Settignano are the Villa Gamberaia, a 14th-century villa famous for its 18th-century terraced garden, and secluded Villa I Tatti, the villa of Bernard Berenson, now a center of art history studies run by Harvard University. Villa Gamberaia was reportedly in a sad state by then, but under Princess Ghyka’s loving care it again became a place of enchantment and beauty, to which a privileged few had access. The visits at the interiors of the Villa are reserved for the groups of minimum 10 persons and the cost is € 10,00 per person (except on Sundays). A number of houses and other buildings within the grounds of Villa Gamberaia have been transformed into fully-furnished guest houses and apartments, available for short holidays and longer vacations.
Three successive new gardens at Villas Gamberaia, La Pietra and I Tatti were among the earliest Modernist landscapes and were an inspiration many landscape professionals in Britain and America. Known for its enchanting landscapes, its fantastic and genuine food and beautiful towns as Florence, Pisa, Lucca and Siena.
Its beauty though so uncared for is still great enough to absorb one almost completely, the terraces, the ponds, the great apse of cut cypresses, the bowling green as you look at it from the grotto toward the south like a great boat sailing through space, the view over the quiet landscape of the Chianti hills and further over domes and towers to the snow-capped Appennines and the Arno glimmering in the plain. If architecture is frozen music, then the Gamberaia's gardens were composed like a waltz, swirling from one space to the next. Margherita Ligure, GE), Villa Farnese di Caprarola (Viterbo), Villa Grabau (Lucca), Villa La Babina (Imola), Villa La Pescigola (Massa), Villa Lante (Viterbo), Villa Melzi d'Eril (Como), Villa Montericco Pasolini (Imola), Villa Novare Bertani (Verona), Villa Oliva-Buonvisi (Lucca), Villa Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente (Firenze), Villa Pisani Bolognesi Scalabrin (Padova),   Villa Poggio Torselli (Firenze), Villa San Michele (Napoli), Villa Serra (Genova), Villa Trento Da Schio (Vicenza), Villa Trissino Marzotto (Vicenza), Villa Vignamaggio (Firenze).

The Italian garden has greatly evolved throughout the ages, taking on different forms, favoring different plants, and serving different purposes.
The theme, Heritage and Landscape as Human Values, represents an increased focus on the role that landscape (a broadly defined term at best) plays within the heritage agenda.
Among other qualities it seamlessly integrates built and natural forms with a series of spaces that are both intimate and grand, providing a complement to the surrounding multi-hued landscape. In continuation of our series on historic sources of landscape design inspiration, today we’ll take a look at the Palacio de Fronteira, Villa Gamberaia and the Gardens of Historic Charleston.
The utilization of azulejos – colorful blue tiles – by Portuguese garden designers in place of masonry, makes a wonderful backdrop and juxtaposition of color. With manicured yew hedges, statuary, multi-level walkways and staircases, water features and garden rooms, the gardens at the Villa Gamberaia are very near to perfection in the Italian style. Charleston’s gardens are notable for their small size, as well as their balanced scale and proportion to hedges, plants and statuary.
The unique garden plan and setting in the Tuscan landscape have been studied and celebrated by architectural historians and garden designers throughout the centuries. The Gamberaia now belongs to Signor Marchi’s son-in-law Luigi Zalum (see the anthology Revisiting the Gamberaia, ed. Lawson, the laureate of the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture who was then in residence at the American Academy in Rome. The formal garden, originally a parterre garden, is practically the only part of the villa that has undergone any radical change in design. He was one of the 17 founding members of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) in Cambridge in 1948.
The latter lived in Villa la Capponcina between 1898 and 1910, during which time one of his guests was Claude Debussy. Florence provided an opportune venue in which to conduct this dialogue for here gardens and landscapes are interwoven within an historic urban framework that coherently integrates them with built form.
However, it was visiting the Villa Gamberaia, included by Edith Wharton in the 1904 book Italian Villas and Their Gardens and studied by aspiring landscape architects (at least when I went to school) that was my priority. The designer of the Villa Gamberaia has not been identified, but it is known that the villa building was begun in 1610 for Zanobi Lapi whose nephews and heirs first laid out the gardens between 1624 and 1635.
Though lesser known than his contemporaries Geoffrey Jellicoe, Sylvia Crowe, Thomas Church and Roberto Burle-Marx, Porcinai is one of the most important landscape designers of the twentieth century. The village contains the ancient church of Santa Maria, founded before the 12th century, but much restructured, chiefly in the 16th and 18th centuries.
Porcinai’s place in the canon of modern landscape design has only now started to receive its rightful appreciation. One terrace wraps around the main villa only to meet another leading away in the opposite direction. Of further interest in the village, see the Oratory of the Holy Trinity, the 19th century Cemetery, containing the tombs of Tommaseo and Aldo Palazzeschi, the Oratory of st.
Santa Pia is the ideal place to pass a very relaxing holiday in contemplation of nature, with the advantage of tasting the most typical dishes of Tuscan cuisine and its best wines. The Gamberaia garden's musical tone throughout is a constant - either the green architectural walls of the planting or the yellow ochre walls of the villa buildings. Built as the unpretentious summer resort of a monastery, it was restructured by the Lapi and chiefly by the Capponi in the 17th and 18th centuries; the villa underwent further changes at the beginning of the 20th century, when it belonged to Princess Ghyka, sister to the Queen of Serbia.

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