The garden was built to be a place of delight; no villa of any elegance could ever be without one. The creation of this garden dates back to the mid-1800s, beautifying the grounds to suit the tastes of the ancestors of the current owners. It was no easy task to build a garden here that might satisfy the requirements of that era. Intended as a place for strolling, the garden had to be level. Its overall plan had to follow a geometrically regular shape, such as a square or rectangle.
It had to contain structural ornaments such as niches and fountains as well as a basin to hold the supply of water.
In the country homes around Siena, an aviary was common, too.
But this particular villa sat atop a hill; all around, the ground sloped away—rather steeply. What’s more, the country road running along the south side of the property cut the garden space down to a sole strip with a considerable slant.
Agostino Fantastici, a famous architect of that era, was called in to solve the problem. Fantastici had already created the gardens for a villa on the nearby hill of Vignano for another branch of the same family.
The architect moved the country road, built a retaining wall, landfilled the space thus obtained, and made a gently sloping rectangle of approx. 1,000 sq. mtr. (10,750 sq. ft.) where he added the ornaments typical of that period: a perspective view of the gate that framed the fish pond, and behind that the aviary built in the form of an elegant classical temple with travertine columns.
Along the southern wall marking the boundary with the country road, Fantastici built two niches in the grotesque style, and in the center a niche-shaped fountain taking its water from the fish pond.
The country house already stood on the northern side.
Fantastici simply extended the building by building the Limonaia, the conservatory room where big, potted lemon trees would be stored during the winter. hence the hortus conclusus, the walled garden protected against the cold north winds.
Work on the garden was completed in 1853; since then there has been no further construction. A dated plaque was mounted on the façade of the Limonaia as befits any architecturally noteworthy structure.
The potted lemon trees played an important part in “furnishing” the garden along with a variety of other plants which were considered exotic back then, such as magnolias, camellias, calycanthus, olea fragrans, and palmetta italica. The plants were selected so that they would flower from April onwards, thus giving the garden a different palette of fragrances for every phase of the summer.
The flowers in the beds edged with decorative stones were all white: dalias, irises, roses, peonies, daisies, tulips, jasmine, lilies of the valley, in keeping with the 19th-century notion of designing monochromatic gardens.
This single-hued “purity” has been lost in the present day, but still something remains of the great-great-great grandparents’ white flowers: Frances will show you around a portion that is still unchanged. Passing through the jasmine archway, you’ll enter an enchanting spot that looks like a real-life secret garden.
How two visiting artists have seen our garden:
Mr. Steven Gifford
Mrs Ginda Simpson
Your hosts with …. a special friend during his last visit