The Boboli Botanical Gardens at the Pitti Palace - Florence, Tuscany

The 50 Best Gardens In Italy: A Garden Guide For 2024

A Horticulturist's Handpicked List Of The Best Botanical Gardens, Villa Gardens, Lakeside & Seaside Gardens, And Hidden Gem Gardens Across Italy

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Although I’m a landscape designer and horticulturist, I didn’t move to Italy because of the many beautiful gardens scattered across the country.  

But, since I’ve lived here for several years, the countless public and private gardens have proved to be more than just icing on the proverbial Italian cake.

Here are 50 of my personal favorite Italian gardens, parks, and hidden botanical gems from Sicily to the Alps.   These are some of the very best gardens in Italy.

Home to thousands of gardens, including the world’s oldest botanical garden, Italy is one of the best countries for garden lovers.

If you are searching for the most beautiful garden in Italy or the most romantic garden in Italy, or perhaps you are searching for the most beautiful garden in Tuscany – this is the article for you.   

Since I moved to Italy, I have come to believe that the most beautiful gardens in the world can be found here.

But it’s up to you to decide for yourself which garden, on our list of the best Italian gardens, is the most beautiful.

While this is an extensive list of some of the best gardens in Italy there are so many fabulous gardens that we couldn’t fit on this list.   

But if you have a favorite garden that you feel belongs on this list or that you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear from you.   

Please drop me an email at: 

[email protected]

Northern Italy is considered, by many, to be the most elegant part of the country – this might explain why some of the most famous and most stunning gardens can be found North of Rome.

Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle

Covering a terraced area of 12 hectares (30 acres) with elevation changes of 100 meters (330 feet) the Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens are some of the most famous gardens in Northern Italy in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige ( South Tyrol ).  

The botanical gardens at the Trauttmansdorff Castle are divided into 4 unique sections: “Forests of the World”, “Sun Gardens”, “Water and Terraced Gardens” and “Landscapes of South Tyrol”.

In the 16th century, Nikolaus von Trauttmansdorff, a soldier of the Habsburgs, bought this fortress and turned it into a castle.   Many frescos and coats of arms, inside the castle, date from his time and are still found in the castle.  

From the 17th century until modern times, the fortress and the formal gardens underwent countless transformations.

Now, the once-private garden and estate are open to the public and are an ideal place to visit some of the finest Italian gardens.

This exemplary restoration of historic gardens, in Italy’s most northern region, is open from April to mid-November.

https://www.trauttmansdorff.it/en/The-Gardens/

Alpine Botanical Garden "Rezia"

The panoramic views at this botanical garden, located 1500 meters (nearly 5,000 feet) above sea level, can be enjoyed after the snow melts in the Italian Alps – from July through September.  

While the oldest botanical garden in Italy dates back to the 1500s, this is one of the newest botanical gardens in Italy, established in 1979.  

This alpine garden is home to 2500 varieties of plants that grow in 4 distinct microclimates, including species from the Arctic and Antarctic.

https://www.in-lombardia.it/en/tourism-in-lombardy/tourism-sondrio/gardens-sondrio/the-rezia-alpine-botanical-gardens-bormio

University of Padua Botanical Garden Orto Botanico - Padova

Of all the botanical gardens on this list, this is both the oldest and my personal favorite.

Located in the Northern Veneto region, just a 30-minute train ride from where I live in the Prosecco Hills near Venice, the Botanical Garden of Padova is not only the oldest in Italy but also the oldest botanical garden in the world (*oldest surviving botanical garden – some older gardens, such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, sadly, no longer exist).

The original walled garden was built securely to keep thieves from stealing the precious medicinal plants contained within the garden walls.

The giant greenhouses, at the Orto Botanico in Padova, are some of the best I’ve ever seen.   While this is certainly not the largest botanical garden in the world, it is, in my opinion, one of the best.

https://www.ortobotanicopd.it/ 

 

Giusti Garden

The Giusti Palace and Garden (Palazzo e giardino Giusti), located in the city of Verona, is considered by many to be one of the best examples of the classic Italian garden.

Garden lovers will find this garden, planted in 1580, to be one of the best Renaissance Gardens in Italy.

These enchanting gardens are in the Northern Italian Veneto region – just a little over an hour from where I live in the Prosecco Hills of Conegliano.

Anytime I am able, I jump in the car or on the train and visit these historical gardens in “Fair Verona.”

https://giardinogiusti.com/ 

Bologna Botanical Garden and Herbarium

Founded in 1568, the Botanical Gardens of Bologna are some of the oldest in Italy – while these gardens may not be Italy’s most pristine, if you see them as a single jewel in the larger crown, that is the fabulous city of Bologna, your expectations will be correctly placed.

The 4 acres of gardens include natural spaces with native and imported species, greenhouses filled with exotic species, water features, and more.

Just a short distance from the train station, the garden, located in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Bologna, is a true pleasure to visit.

The city of Bologna is famous for its rich history, food, and architecture, the Botanical Garden and Herbarium at the University of Bologna are even more reasons to visit this fabulous Northern Italian city.

https://www.bolognawelcome.com/en/places/parks-and-gardens/orto-botanico 

Photo credit: www.housinganywhere.com

Brera Botanical Garden - Milan

This list of the most beautiful gardens in Italy wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the fashionable capital of Milan.

The exotic plants, at the Brera Castle Gardens, are no less fashionable than those found in the fashion houses of Milan’s most exclusive designers.

In the early 2000s, the gardens re-opened after a long renovation period, and ever since, these centuries-old gardens have been impressing visitors with their ancient trees, water gardens, and many varieties of ornamental and medicinal plants.

While you are not able to reach the gardens by private car, due to the fact that they are located in the heart of Milan in a limited traffic zone, the Milano Centrale Railway Station is just 3 stops from the gardens on the yellow MM3 line (Metro Line). 

 

https://ortibotanici.unimi.it/en/brera-botanical-garden/

 

Turin University Botanical Garden

Just 50 years older than the founding of the United States, the Botanical Gardens of Turin is one of the younger botanical gardens in Italy.  

Located in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, Turin was the first capital city of the Unified Republic of Italy from 1861 to 1865, before Rome took the title.

Turin is one of my favorite cities in Italy and it is also one of the most underrated cities in the country.   

Besides the Botanical Gardens, which are managed by the Univerity of Turin, the food, architecture, art, and nightlife of Turin make it an ideal location to visit while avoiding the throngs of tourists found in many of Italy’s other major cities.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a couple of entrepreneurs from California who moved their young family to Turin from Los Angeles – you can listen to their interview on both Apple and Spotify.

https://www.ortobotanico.unito.it/en/botanical-garden

Roseto della Villa Reale di Monza

The Royal Palace of Monza, located a short distance outside of Milan, is one of Italy’s most beautiful gardens and one best places to see Italy’s gardens designed in the English Garden style – as was the fashion at the time of its construction, during the end of the 18th century.

The gardens, famous for their many varieties of beautiful and rare roses, cover an area of more than 40 hectares (100 acres) around the Royal Villa.  

This is one of the most unique gardens and historic parks found in Italy, with fabulous royal greenhouses filled with exotics, orange groves, a stream flowing through natural forests-scapes, and acres of formal gardens adorned with one beautiful fountain after another.   

This wonderful Italian garden can be visited year-round.

https://reggiadimonza.it/giardini-reali/

Parco Giardino Sigurtà

Located approximately halfway between Venice and Milan, a short distance from Verona and the famous Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) in the Veneto region, is the impressive public garden of Sigurtà.

Although the history of Parco Giardino Sigurta dates back to the 13th century, it wasn’t until 1941, when the Sigurtà family purchased the estate, that the gardens were developed into the fabulous collection of mazes, tulip gardens, green spaces, fountains, and formal gardens that it is today.

Be sure to add this wonderful Italian garden to your list of horticultural destinations, it’s only an hour from where I live and it’s one of my favorite gardens in Italy.  

I particularly love it because you’re more likely to encounter Italian visitors in the garden than foreign tourists.

 

https://www.sigurta.it/welcome

 

My Favorite Book On Italian Gardens

The author of many books on gardening, biographer Kirsty McLeod has written, what myself and many others believe to be, the best book of Italian Gardens – The Best Gardens in Italy: A Traveller’s Guide.

“In this pioneering new book, Kirsty McLeod and Primrose Bell celebrate over a hundred of the finest Italian gardens open to the public.

They take the reader with them on a journey to these gardens: they explore their history and context, and we meet the owners, hear the stories behind the gardens, and learn how they were made and how they are maintained.” – Online Book Retailer

This is a collection of gardens in Central Italy – from Rome, Florance, Tuscany, and the East Coast of the Adriatic Sea to the West Coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

*If you happen to be interested in the best wines in Florence, Tuscany, Chianti, or Naples – click the name of the area where you’re interested in wine tasting for a complete guide.

Botanical Garden of Rome

The first garden on our Central Italy list is rightfully found in “The Eternal City”, the Capital of Italy – Rome.

Tucked into the chaos of the Italian capital is an unexpected oasis that covers 12 hectares (30 acres) of both interesting new gardens combined with gardening renaissance.  

Within these large gardens is an iris garden, fountains, a water garden, and an impressive collection of monumental trees, such as the eastern plane trees, cork oaks, downy oaks, and Himalayan cedars, as well as 130 other species of trees.

This is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of Rome.

If you’re a painter this is a great place to paint.  

If you’re a walker, this is a great place to walk.  

If you’re a reader this is a great place to read.  

And even if you’re none of these things, this is still a great place to visit while in Rome.

https://www.turismoroma.it/en/places/botanical-garden-rome

Villa d'Este Tivoli

Villa d’Este in Tivoli, near Rome, is one of the most beautiful examples of an Italian Renaissance garden in Europe.   The fountains at this beautiful location are featured in the classic film Three Coins In The Fountain.

Work on the estate and gardens began in 1550.   Covering nearly 20 acres, the gardens are adorned with over 100 beautiful fountains, splendid hedges, trees, and flower beds.  

This location is truly one of the best gardens in Italy and one of my personal favorites.   

This garden is a wonderful place to visit year-round.

https://www.visittivoli.eu/le-ville/villa-d-este&lang=EN

The Garden of Ninfa

The Garden of Ninfa is a garden of 105 hectares (260 acres) in the province of Latina outside of Rome.   This beautiful location is considered by many to be the most romantic garden in the world.

The Ninfa Gardens contain beautiful medieval ruins, numerous oak trees and cypresses, and grassy meadows.   It also has a wide range of exotic plants from around the world.

If you visit during the spring and summer you will be treated with the sight of hundreds of rambling roses growing over the stone walls of the ancient ruins.

 

https://www.cntraveler.com/activities/cisterna-di-latina/the-gardens-of-ninfa

Villa Borghese Gardens

At over 80 hectares (nearly 200 acres), the historic Villa Borghese estate is the 3rd largest park and garden in Rome.   Of all the gardens on this list, these are by far some of the most impressive and enchanting.

While this is one of the most popular tourist locations in Rome, when you visit the fabulous Villa Borghese Gardens you will understand why it is such a desirable destination.

My friend Gillian Longworth McGuire wrote a fantastic guide to the Villa Borghese Gardens.  I know will find it helpful as you plan your visit.

The best time to avoid the largest crowds is early in the morning right at opening time or be the last to arrive in the evening – or visit during the months of February through April or September through November.

https://www.turismoroma.it/en/places/villa-borghese-park

Orto Botanico "Giardino dei Semplici" - Università di Firenze

The “Giardino dei Semplici” is one of the best things about the city of Florence.   It is also the third oldest botanical garden in the world.  

Its origins date back to 1 December 1545, when the Medici family rented the land on which the Garden was to be built from the nearby Monastery of San Domenico in Cafaggio, which was inhabited by Dominican nuns.

The name “Giardino dei Semplici” is due to the fact that the garden was originally home to medicinal plants or “Semplici”.

The beautiful historic gate to the garden still bears the coat of arms and the original epigraph of the Medici family.

 

http://www.ortobotanicoitalia.it/toscana/unifirenze/

 

Orto Botanico dell'Università di Siena

As with many of the historic botanical gardens on our list, this Italian Renaissance garden got its start as a “Semplici” (a source of medicine from the medicinal plants) in 1588 at the Santa Maria della Scala Hospital, in Siena.

Due to its prominent location during the Renaissance Period, Tuscany is the Italian region with the most formal, botanical, and medicinal gardens.

The Orto Botanico dell’Università di Siena was the recipient of hundreds of exotic varieties of plants, with scientific interest, during the exploration of the New World.

 

http://www.ortobotanicoitalia.it/toscana/siena/

 

Orto Botanico Comunale di Lucca

The lovely botanical gardens and greenhouses in Lucca, Tuscany are home to an impressive collection of Camelia species, a cinnamon bark tree as well as a Cedar of Lebanon.

While Lucca is one of Tuscany’s favorite tourist cities, you should consider adding this lesser-known destination in the city to your list of sights to see.

 

http://www.ortobotanicoitalia.it/toscana/lucca/ 

 

Botanical Garden and Museum - Pisa Tuscany

Although the record books credit the botanic garden of Padova as “the oldest in the world”, technically the Botanical Garden of Pisa was founded first, however, because it moved from its original location, while Padova is still located where it was founded, Pisa got bumped to second place.

Besides the leaning tower, this nearly 500-year-old garden is certainly worth a visit.

http://www.ortobotanicoitalia.it/toscana/pisa/

The Boboli Botanical Gardens at the Pitti Palace

As with many Renaissance wonders in Florence, the Medici family is responsible for the design of the impressive Boboli Gardens surrounding the Pitti Palace.   

Besides the realization of its gardens, the Medici family collected priceless art and architectural elements inside the palace.

You could spend days at this location and still not have time to fully appreciate everything this stunning property has to offer.

This is considered by many to be the most beautiful garden in Tuscany and possibly the most beautiful garden in Italy.

The wealth of art that is concentrated in the city of Florence is why, for hundreds of years, those at the highest levels of the global society always included this location in their “grand tour” of Europe.

The Boboli Gardens are considered one of Italy’s most beautiful gardens and are certainly a must-visit location for both garden design enthusiasts and everyone else.

https://www.uffizi.it/en/boboli-garden

Photo Credit: Tarot Garden - Il Giardino dei Tarocchi - https://ilgiardinodeitarocchi.it/en/

Tarot Garden - Il Giardino dei Tarocchi

Niki de Saint Phalle is a French-American artist and sculptor whose signature oversized colorful sculptures can be found around the globe in nearly 30 nations from Israel, South Korea, and the US.   

Her magnum opus is the “Tarot Garden” ( Park of Monsters ) in the medieval Tuscan village of Garavicchio is the crowning achievement of this remarkable artist.

When her highly colorful sculptures started appearing on the hills of this little-known seaside hamlet of Tuscany, near the border of the Roman region of Lazio in the 1970s, locals were highly critical of the unusual “art”.

However, now that the garden has become an official art museum and has been open to the public since 1998.  Public opinion has turned from ridicule to admiration.

This is certainly the most unexpected garden on our list, but its surprising nature makes it a lovely balance to the traditional gardens found throughout Italy.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/04/18/niki-de-saint-phalles-tarot-garden

 

Giardino dell’Iris

Since the year 1251, the Iris flower has been the symbol of the City of Florence.  

The Giardino dell’Iris ( The Iris Garden of Florence ) is the home to flower beds filled with more than 2000 varieties of colorful Iris flowers over 2 acres of garden.

You can visit free of charge in late spring to early summer from May 2 through May 20 every year to see the Iris blooms at their peak.

This is a collection of some of the most beautiful Italian gardens in Southern Italy – from Naples and Puglia to Sicily.

Palace of Caserta Gardens Near Naples

Of all the gardens on this list, there are none more impressive than these.  

When I visited the grounds and gardens at the Palace of Caserta I was blown away by the sheer scale of the place.

When you get tired after simply walking the 120 hectares (297 acres) of the Palace of Caserta gardens, along the 2-mile central garden path, along one of the world’s longest fountains in the world, you realize how much work it must have taken to build the palace and grounds during the 1700s without the aid of power tools only using manpower and horsepower.

The Royal Palace of Caserta ( Reggia di Caserta ) is a former royal palace residence in Caserta, in Southern Italy.  

The palace and grounds are the largest former royal residence in the world (when measured by volume).  

This palace was built by the House of Burbon the kingdom of Two Sicilies for the King of Naples.   It was built at this scale to rival the Palace of Versailles in France.

A visit to the best gardens in Italy is totally incomplete without a visit to the Royal Palace of Caserta.

https://reggiadicaserta.cultura.gov.it/en/discover-the-complex/the-english-garden/

 

Orto Botanico di Portici

Tucked along the Southern Italian Riviera, between the Amalfi Coast and Naples is the little-known seaside village of Portici with its Royal Palace of Portici and Botanical Gardens built by King Charles of Bourbon, in the early 18th century.

The French-style gardens, along with their citrus groves, were transformed into a School of Botany and Agriculture in 1872 which included wine grape production.   

If you’re a wine enthusiast besides a garden enthusiast, here are some of my favorite wineries in the Naples area.

The combination of garden design and scientific emphasis makes this one of the most interesting botanical gardens in Southern Italy.

https://www.centromusa.it/it/orto-botanico-di-portici.html

Orto Botanico dell'Università di Bari

Established in 1955, the Botanical Garden at the University of Bari is one of the newest gardens in Italy.  

Although there was an attempt to build a botanical garden in Bari during the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, it wasn’t until the unification of Italy, in the 1860s, that the roadblocks were removed to establish the University Botanical Garden of Bari.

This is a truly lovely garden to visit in this eastern region of Southern Italy.

 

http://www.ortobotanicoitalia.it/puglia/bari/

 

Photo Credit: Le Petit Palais

Parco Floridiana, Vomero - Naples

My Italian family are from the hilltop neighborhood of Vomero in Naples and since I moved to Italy, I started spending a lot of time in this area.

As I am a garden designer and horticulturist, it didn’t take me very long to discover the most lovely park and garden in this area.

While this might not win the award for Italy’s most beautiful park – this is my favorite place in Naples.

With its lovely shady pathways, beautiful fountain filled with fish and turtles, the gorgeous villa, and unmatched views of the Gulf of Naples from Mt Vesuvius to Sorrento, this public garden is one of Naples’ best-kept secrets.

https://www.culturalheritageonline.com/location-716_Parco-della-Villa-Floridiana-al-Vomero—Virtual-Tour-360%C2%B0.php

Orto Botanico di Palermo

In 1779 the Botanical Garden of Palermo was established.  

With its primary function being the development of medicine, this garden is not only one of the most beautiful gardens in Italy but it has contributed to the world of science for hundreds of years.

My favorite aspects of this wonderful garden are the elegant greenhouses, the impressive Greek-style Gymnasium building, and the Aquarium water garden.

Besides fabulous citrus trees, this botanical garden is home to countless exotic species of palms and plants from around the world.

http://www.ortobotanicoitalia.it/sicilia/palermo/

Lakeside Gardens

This is a collection of Gardens in the Lake District of Northern including Lakes Como, Garda, Maggiore and more.

Botanical Garden of Villa Carlotta

Not only is the botanical garden at Villa Carlotta one of the most famous gardens in Italy, but it is also considered, by many, to be the most beautiful garden in the world.

Nestled on the banks of elegant Lake Como in Northern Italy, just across the border from Switzerland, the museum and botanical gardens of Villa Carlotta are one of the best examples of a formal Italian that exists.   

Besides the citrus “tunnel” arbors, camelia, azalea, and rose collections there is also a charming kitchen garden (vegetable garden) hidden away in the grounds of Villa Carlotta.

As someone who lives in Northern Italy, I can tell you that the best time to visit these beautiful gardens is in the fall months of October and November – the crowds are mostly gone during the autumn and the mild climate is very pleasant.   

https://www.villacarlotta.it/en/garden/

Giardini Botanici di Villa Taranto

In 1931 Villa Taranto, on beautiful Lake Maggiore at the base of the Italian Alps, was purchased by Neil Boyd McEacharn, a botany enthusiast and the son of a wealthy Scottish shipping family.

While visiting the gorgeous Italian Lake district, you must treat yourself to a long leisurely stroll through the pristine grounds and greenhouses at Villa Taranto.  

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes because it’s not a short walk through the meandering pathways of over 40 acres. 

https://www.villataranto.it/en/gardens/

Il Giardino della Valle

Another Lake Como area garden to visit is the charming green oasis of “Il Giardino della Valle” (Garden of the Valley).  

Ida Lonati Frati is a gardener who, in the 1980s, transformed this deserted piece of property, that was once a landfill, into a magical space.  

This lovely botanical garden is filled with wooden sculptures, ponds, streams, and bridges.

While this might not be the most impressive garden in Italy, it is certainly a wonderful location in the village of Cernobbio – a great place to escape the crowds of downtown Como.

https://www.lakecomo.is/il-giardino-della-valle/

Giardino Botanico di Villa Cipressi

The Villas of Cypresses is a collection of historic villas and beautiful gardens in Varenna, on the east coast of Lake Como.

Dating back to 1163, these villas bought by the people of Varenna in the 1980s, are now the property of public institutions with the Varenna Municipality, their rentals and maintenance are managed by the R Collection Hotels Group.

The garden includes a wonderful collection of Agavaceae and Mediterranean species such as a strawberry tree, myrtle, pittosporum, tamarisk, various species of palm, standard oleanders, and slender, elegant cypresses.

There are also rare specimens of the Californian Cupressus macrocarpa a Monterey cypress.

By walking along the garden footpath, visitors can enjoy constant blooms through the seasons.   

There are camellias and azaleas in spring, gardenias, hydrangeas, and roses in summer and the flower beds are filled with annual blooms year-round.

This is truly a wonderful collection of lakeside gardens.

https://www.rcollectionhotels.it/en/hotel-villa-cipressi/villa-with-botanic-garden-varenna

Villa del Balbianello

The pristine gardens at Lake Como’s Villa del Balbianello are so beautiful that over the years they have seduced many a poet and filmmaker.

Star Wars II: Clone Wars was partly filmed, posing as the planet Naboo, at this striking villa and garden on this peninsula of Lake Como.   You can also see this beautiful estate featured in James Bond’s Casino Royale.

Besides American filmmakers, Bollywood productions have been filmed here as well.   In 2018, Bollywood’s famous couple Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s wedding took place at Villa del Balbianello.

Once the location of a Franciscan monastery, the two towers that remain on the property are the remnants of the campanile of the monastery’s church.

The gardens and grounds are some of the most beautiful in the Italian Lake District.

https://fondoambiente.it/villa-del-balbianello-eng

This is a collection of wonderful gardens near the sea or with a view of the Mediterranean.

These are some of my favorite gardens in Italy.   Although they are lesser-known gardens, I consider them to be true “hidden gems” and well worth a visit.

Official Website For Italian Botanical Gardens:

http://www.ortobotanicoitalia.it/toscana/lucca/

Thank you for allowing me to share some of my favorite Italian gardens with you.

I wish you many happy hours of wandering through some of the Best Gardens in Italy.

Ciao Ciao!

Nathan Heinrich

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Author Info:

Nathan Heinrich

Nathan Heinrich

Nathan is a writer, designer & horticulturist. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of "All Roads Lead to Italy" Magazine & host of the Top-10 Travel Podcast, "I'm Moving To Italy!". Nathan was born and raised in a 6th generation farming family in Northern California, he is currently, a dual Italian citizen, living in the Prosecco Valley of Northern Italy, near Venice.

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