Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site

Main Page This family-friendly site celebrates Italian culture for the enjoyment of children and adults. Site-Overview

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Click on a slideshow image to visit that page  

 

The Italian Garden

This article is about Italy's unique contribution to garden design:  the Classical Italian Garden, also called the Renaissance Garden.  

Discussing Italian gardens, it is important to point out that most people in Italy live in condominium apartments and have no garden.  

Those who live in villas (free standing houses) in the countryside, or on hills near towns, do generally have a garden.  But the gardens can be used to grow vegetables, or be ornamental, or both.

Public gardens are often former private estates of the extremely wealthy (usually former royalty).  They can include formal gardens and large green areas used in the past for exercise on horseback, or for hunting.  

 

The Renaissance Garden

A Renaissance Garden is a place for retreat from a hectic world.  It's for pleasure and peace.  It's for wandering, pottering and contemplating.

Any practical elements such as vegetables, fruit and herbs are woven into the garden design so they appear ornamental.

 

Outlining with Evergreens

The most recognizable elements of the Classical Italian Garden are the evergreen-outlined beds.  

Box (buxus) hedge, myrtle, rosemary, and other evergreen plants are trimmed into a hedge shape to divide the beds.

More importantly, however, the hedges provide shape and green even in the garden's fallow months because the Renaissance Garden is meant for year-round pleasure.

 

 

Topiary and Statuary

Topiary, evergreen plants shaped, trimmed and pruned into amusing shapes, are used to add humor and playfulness to the garden.

Some say this is really a Medieval custom that just stayed on during the Renaissance.  But you'll see more topiary than statuary in Classical Italian Gardens.

Statuary, when it is used, is normally a central feature in a fountain or grotto.  It is never vulgar or offensive, but humorous or graceful.

 

Fruit Trees

Renaissance Garden fruit trees are clipped and well-tended.  Some are planted in pots, others are planted in open ground, most often against walls.

Citrus fruit plants are often potted up so they can be set outdoors during warm months, and moved indoors during winter months.  

Other fruit trees are usually trained as arches or over pergolas, when they're not formed as an esplanade against a South-facing wall, for early ripening of the fruit.

 

Arches and Pathways

Evergreens often line pathways, and it's not always box hedging.  Laurel, Yew, Cypresses, Fir, Oaks, Plum, and Juniper trees are used to create green walls, arches and living pergolas.  

Footpaths are designed to offer varied walks with varied views through the garden.  They are also used for exercise, often taking the long way around.

Paths can be grass paths, mown down regularly, or dirt paths weeded regularly.  But the easiest paths to maintain are paved or gravel-covered (an anti-weed tarp under the gravel can cut maintenance to almost nothing). 

 

Trellises and Climbing Plants

Trellises are used to divide "rooms" and line paths in the garden.  They are trained with climbing plants like ivy, roses, honeysuckle, or grape vines.

The climbing plants are also trained over structures such as pergolas, porticos and pavilions.  Flowering climbers are preferred.

 

Terracing

The ideal Renaissance Garden is terraced on a gently sloping hillside.  The various levels are joined up by paths and short flights of steps.

Terraces are used mainly to divide the garden into "rooms" with varying "moods", and to limit the views and vistas.  A connecting terrace should come as a surprise when climbing up the garden.

Looking down from the villa, however, the terraces should create a tableau of pleasing vistas, artistically sculpted views.  

 

Potted Plants

Terra-cotta pots, often covered with figures and designs, are common decorative features in Renaissance Gardens.

Flowers, fruit trees and herbs can be potted up and moved around the garden for variety and added color.  They are almost always displayed in balanced symmetry, so buy your pots in twos.

 

Tightly Planted Beds

Bordered beds are often planted up on various eye levels.  In the center is a tall plant such as a fruit tree, or an evergreen such as Laurel. 

Surrounding the tall plant are shorter plants in a different color, providing either a contrast or a complementary shade.  These plants are often herbs or flowering plants such as roses, salvias, or lupines.

 

Water Features

Water always plays a part in Classical Italian Gardens.  Primarily the water is for irrigation to keep the plants from drying out.

Secondarily, the water is used for features such as grottos, fountains, streams, and ponds. 

These features can be central features in "rooms", or as in the case of grottos, off to the shady sides of the garden.

 

(This article continues on my Garden page)

 

About this Site

This is a hobby-site.  Any money made from links and ads provide funds to cover my computer, Internet, and website hosting and domain name costs.  Anything left over, I spend on pasta!  ;-)   Grazie mille!

Candida Martinelli

Established July 2003

 

Food, Drink, Recipes

Italian Food

Culinaria Italy

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Pasta

Recipes

Olives and Oil

Medieval Italian Cookbooks

Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook

Eat Less / Feel Full

Cookbooks to Buy

Quince - Mele Cotogne

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Eat Less, Feel Full

Italian Wine

Italian Liqueurs

Vov Recipe

Coffee Liqueur Recipe

Grappa (LaPaglia)

Candies

Gelato

Chestnut Desserts

Sweets and Recipes

Zabaione, A Saint's Recipe Men Love

Spoonbreads

Granita

Cream Desserts

Salame Dolce - A Chocolate Candy

Panettone, Amaretti

Italian Rice Desserts

 

 

Towns and Touring

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Pompeii - Vesuvius

Palaces of Sicily

Taormina

Ricordo di Venezia Postcard Book

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Bianchi Gallery

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Florentia Paper

Edith Wharton's Della Robbia Terracottas

The Brownings

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Italian Media Today

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Marco Polo

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Venice Art

Venice in 1860s

Murano Glass

Free Venice Art

Rome

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Living in Ancient Rome

Fun Latin Phrases

Mysteries in Ancient Rome

Roman Costumes

 

 

Italian Culture for Children

Sunflowers

Sliding-Art Puzzles

Strega Nona

Italy Coloring Pages

Italian Artist Bios

Renaissance Paper Dolls

Child's Menu Page

Cow Game

Goose Game Free Game Board

Cards - Tarot Cards

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Scopa

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Goose Game

Calcio - Football

Ziginette - Zecchinetta

Pinocchio

Strega Nona

Children's Books, CDs, Games, Treats

Free Italian Children's Stories On-line

Emilio Salgari's Adventures

Italian Artist Bios for Children

 

 

Holiday Fun and Gifts

Italian Xmas Cards

The Nativity

La Befana

Angels in Italian Art

Catholic Prayers in Italian / English

Italophile Gift Ideas

Luxury Gift Ideas

10 Recipes for the Holidays

Easter Story

Christmas Story in Italian and English

Carnival

Carnival (Halloween and Commedia) Costumes

Religious Art - Marquetry

 

 

History Comes Alive

De' Medici Family

Life in Ancient Rome

Natural History of Italy

Pre-History

Ancient History

The Middle Ages

The Renaissance

The Age of Discovery

Age of Colonialism, Capitalism, Reason, Industrial Revolution

Italian Unification

Fascism and The World Wars

Post War Growth and European Integration

Marco Polo

Amerigo Vespucci

Living in Ancient Rome

 

 

SOME LINKS TO GOODIES...

Lessons: How to get E-texts and E-books from the Internet, including source list for free electronic books

A non-Italy article by Candida: A book that helped keep WWII soldiers sane and humane

A non-Italy offer:  Nerja, Spain Beachfront Apartment to Rent

 

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Please visit Candida Martinelli's Writing Website and the first book in her Young-Adult Historical Mystery Series