Border Lines Tours to Italy, Denmark and South Africa

Vicenza: Gardens and Palladian Villas of the Veneto
Monday 6 to Friday 10 May 2019

The Venetian Empire, originally maritime and eastward-looking, turned, in the 15th century, towards the “terra firma” of mainland Italy. One by one, former independent city states, such as Verona and Padua, came under Venetian rule. More than any other city, Vicenza rejoiced in the cultural impact of Venetian colonisation and, in the 16th century, Andrea Palladio adorned the city with palaces and the surrounding countryside with villas for Vicentine nobility and Venetian settlers.

The five-day tour, based in the centre of this delightful city, takes in, not only the important Palladian buildings in Vicenza, but also explores nearby villas built by Palladio and his followers; some of these have enchanting gardens, others are spectacularly placed within the landscape. In a number of these villas, generous hosts will be giving us lunch.

Cathedrals, Castles, Hill Towns and a Garden in Puglia
Sunday 12 to Saturday 17 May 2019

Puglia, Italy’s heal was, from the 7th century BC, a flourishing Greek colony. It became the western outpost of the Eastern Empire, then part of the dynamic and sophisticated Norman Kingdom of Sicily. In more modern times, Puglia was quite unreasonably neglected by the traveller. However, the combination of magnificent Norman castles, Romanesque sea-girt cathedrals, gently rolling limestone hills and white stone towns, is truly irresistible. In many ways, Puglia is the Cotswolds of the Adriatic!

During this six-day tour, based in the splendid Baroque city of Lecce and a five-star hotel not far from Martina Franca, we will visit some of the cathedrals, castles and churches that are scattered across the region, we will sample wines and food in masseria, we will visit one spectacular garden and there will be time explore towns both inland and on the coast.

Late Spring in Denmark
Monday 27 May to Saturday 1 June 2019

Why is Denmark, a country so close to Britain, so intriguingly and beguilingly different? Maybe the all-pervading sea, which surrounds the 400 or so islands that make up the country and threads its way through the city of Copenhagen, has something to do with it. Maybe the gentle, rolling, soft fertile landscape has fashioned a particular Danish attitude to life.

There is a great deal to see.  Away from Copenhagen, there are castles and manor houses to visit, a tiny palace set in a 19th century Romantic landscape, churches with 14th century frescoes and a cathedral with a remarkable collection of royal tombs, including that of the present Queen.  There are delightful private gardens with welcoming hosts, a contemporary art gallery with views across to Sweden and very comfortable hotels.

Gardens of Johannesburg, the Eastern and the Western Cape
Sunday 20 October to Friday 1 November

Following our three very successful tours to South Africa, we are planning to return for an eleven-day tour in the autumn of 2019. All but two of the gardens are privately owned and so we can only visit them by kind invitation of the owners.

We will start in Johannesburg, staying in a very comfortable five-star hotel in the northern suburbs of the city. The Jacarandas should be in full flower, so that the entire city, which lays claim to be the largest man-made forest in the world, is covered with purple flowers. The standard of gardening here is high and the variety of gardens exciting and challenging.

The Bedford Garden Festival in the Eastern Cape is a remarkable occasion, which brings the small town of Bedford centre-stage in the South African horticultural world. We will be visiting immediately after the Festival when the crowds have gone and the owners can, not only concentrate on showing us around their gardens, but also on entertaining us for the two days of our visit.

From Bedford we travel on to the Western Cape, where we will be based, as before, in Stellenbosch in the heart of the winelands. This lovely university town, the second oldest settlement in the Cape Province, makes the perfect base for the tour, with attractive architecture, a mass of cafés and restaurants within a few minutes’ walk of our hotel, lots of shops and the oldest botanic garden in South Africa. Behind the town, the mountains of the Simonsberg and Hottentots-Holland ranges rise dramatically out of the plain that rolls down to the sea and distant Table Mountain.

The great pleasure of these gardens is the astonishing variety of planting and design. They range from the extraordinary potager at Babylonstoren (designed by Patrice Taravella of the Prieuré d’Orsan in France) in which everything from prickly pears to strawberries are grown organically, through a garden planted entirely with the natural vegetation of the Fynbos, to the grand formal Cape Dutch gardens at Stellenberg (partly designed by David Hicks).

The plantsmanship throughout is superb, whether in the gardens at Elgin, which we visit halfway between the well-known Elgin open gardens weekends, when they are at their very peak of perfection, or the private gardens in Constantia. There is something here for every horticultural taste; roses in profusion, Agapanthus beginning to flower in clouds of blue and white, Salvias grown to perfection, the Proteas and Leucospermums of the indigenous fynbos and wonderful trees, particularly the august, almost elephantine, camphor trees at Vergelegen. To all this, add delicious food and wine and the spectacular landscape of mountains and the green rolling hills of the winelands. There can be no better way to start an English winter.

For more details on any of these tours please contact James Bolton on james@border-lines.co.uk or by using our Contact Form