Italian Gardens

Lecture 1 - The Romans to the Renaissance

Imperial Rome had left its legacy of garden design mainly through the Christian Church in Italy itself but Greek and Roman ideas though were kept alive though by the Byzantines and Muslims. It was only with the ideas of the Renaissance which looked back to Classical models that medieval gardens were ‘opened up’. The Medici family in Florence were responsible for many of the early innovative gardens from the mid 15th century. However once the Cardinals were able to get grants of land in the papal states around Rome in the early 16th century, they too started building increasingly complex gardens (mainly to outdo one another!). Access to sources of water was key for the increasingly complex waterworks. Art was provided by the overall design and the often allegorical statues and carved stonework, under which lay hidden meanings. While planting was generally from a limited palette, serious scientific work was being done in the new botanic gardens.

Lecture 2 - The Baroque to Anglo-Italian Gardens

At the beginning of the 17th century, gardens became more ambitious in scale and reflected the new Baroque architecture. Apart from Veneto region, Palladian architecture and its accompanying garden was not popular in Italy until the 18th century. Instead it was French styles that slowly came in the first half of the 18th century but they rarely matched to the originals due to geography and cost. Foreign influence continued into the 19th century with the English style landscaping of the larger gardens. However it was the wealthy expatriates from Britain and America who arrived in the late 19th century and did much to revive neglected Italian gardens. They brought in new ‘Anglo-Italian’ designs and designers such as Cecil Pinsent and although these were inspired by the Renaissance ideas, they also reflected the contemporary English Arts and Crafts movement. Italian garden design continues to inspire, as they have done throughout the centuries.