Spring in Piedmont
Monday 23 – Friday 27 April 2018 and Monday 21 – Friday 25 May 2018
Piedmont is a country of the border lands; in Italy and yet with a strongly marked difference. Around Turin the Alps, rising to the west in a huge embracing arc, are a constant presence. The ruling dynasty were originally Counts of Savoy on the French side of the mountains, who, through skilful diplomacy, advantageous marriages and the fortunes of European power politics, became first Dukes of Savoy, Kings of Sardinia and ultimately Kings of Italy. Turin feels unlike any other Italian city; it is laid out in a grid pattern, a legacy from the Roman town founded in 28BC, but these elegant streets have wide colonnades, which make for very agreeable strolling and many end dramatically in a vista of snow-covered peaks. It is a city of great charm, filled with treasures; royal palaces are scattered in profusion in and just outside the city, baroque churches in equal number, a fine art galley attached to the Royal Palace, a world class Egyptian Museum, which contains the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside Egypt, and, of course, the Turin Shroud, housed in the cathedral.
On the first day we catch the British Airways afternoon flight from Gatwick to Turin and after checking into our four star hotel in the heart of the city, have dinner en groupe. We spend the morning of the second day exploring the city, with a visit to the Palazzo Reale, the Galleria Sabauda and the Cathedral, before lunch in a local pastificio. The afternoon will be free to visit the Egyptian Museum, the Palazzo Madama or to shop.
The following day we drive east to visit a private garden in the hills above the Po valley. The garden was designed by Paolo Pejrone, Italy’s leading contemporary garden designer. Open lawns fringed with trees contrast with terraces draped extravagantly with Wisteria and, below the villa, the long views south towards Liguria. After lunch we drive round Turin to the Venaria Reale, a vast former royal palace, which has recently undergone extensive and imaginative restoration. The gardens around the palace were entirely destroyed by French troops during the Napoleonic wars and subsequent occupation of the place by the Italian army. They have been restored in a modern interpretation of a formal baroque garden.
On Thursday we travel south to see the astonishing gothic frescos in the Castello di Manta. These frescos were painted in 1420 and represent the Nine Worthies, their female counterparts and the Fountain of Youth. We continue to a private botanic garden nearby and then, after lunch, we visit Paolo Pejrone’s private garden. Paolo Pejrone trained as an architect and then worked with Russell Page and later with the Brazilian designer Roberto Burle Marx. He has designed gardens across the world and his own five-hectare garden, which unfolds over the hillside behind his house, is rarely open and a delight to see.
On the last day of the tour we visit the royal Palace at Stupinigi, built by the court architect, Filippo Juvarra, in 1729, as a hunting lodge, a place of summer entertainment and royal weddings. The curiously-shaped palace culminates in the enormous central hall, whose roof is suitably adorned with a vast bronze stag. We conclude the tour at Villa Silvio Pellico, whose garden, designed by Russell Page in the 1950s, has been so often photographed as to become the iconic image of his work. After a tour of the garden we will have lunch before returning to Turin Airport for the late afternoon flight to Gatwick.
Total Cost: The five days, including four nights in the four-star Hotel Victoria in Turin (two people sharing), four lunches, one dinner, all entrance fees to the gardens and travel by luxury air-conditioned coach (flights to and from Turin are NOT included), will cost £2,300.00pp. For anyone requiring the single use of a double room, there will be a supplement, levied by the hotel, of £225.00.
To book: call James Bolton on 01451 821804 or email email@example.com
Ninfa and Gardens of the Roman Campagna
Monday 7 – Friday 11 May 2018
Rome has long exerted a magnetic fascination. From the medieval pilgrims in search of salvation, through the 18th Century Grand Tourist in pursuit of pleasure and education in equal amounts, to the modern traveller in love with Italy, the lure of the city, set in the midst of the Roman Campagna, has been irresistible. Around the city, Romans wishing to escape the heat and bustle, have built villas and created enchanting gardens.
The middle of the 16th century was the heyday of the formal Italian garden, when cardinals created extravagant retreats replete with grottos and statuary, clipped evergreens, citrus trees in pots and, above all, copious flowing water. Gradually this gave way to the informal English style and the greatest of all Italian gardens at Ninfa was planted over 70 years at the beginning of the 20th century. Contemporary Italians are still gardening and still creating wonderful gardens to adorn the countryside around Rome
Though our first night is in an hotel near Lake Bracciano north of Rome, this five-day tour is otherwise based in Frascati, a small town on the slopes of the Alban Hills, famous for its wine and the baroque villas built for their views towards Rome.
We fly to Rome Fiumicino Airport in the afternoon of the first day and drive north to a garden created by the present owner. Spectacular Mediterranean Pines are softened by roses which smother the walls of the castle. We will then continue on to our hotel, originally a Roman spa set in gently rolling countryside, for the first night.
The second day starts with a visit to Villa Farnese at Caprarola. Behind the imposing five-sided palazzo, lie two formal gardens and, after a short walk through woods, an enchanting secret garden around a Casina. From here we drive to lunch at Castello Ruspoli. The garden of clipped box, laurel and rosemary hedges, designed in the 1600s, is a superb example of formal Italian landscaping. In the afternoon, after visiting the Villa Lante, one of the loveliest and best-preserved Renaissance gardens in Italy, we continue to Frascati and our hotel for the next three nights.
On Wednesday we visit the Villa d’Este, created by Cardinal Ippolite d’Este in the 1560s at Tivoli, where water, in an endless stream, pours from fountains, cascades down water staircases and fills mirror-like pools. We continue to Arabella Lennox-Boyd’s palazzo in the Sabine Hills, where we have lunch before visiting her garden. Afterwards we return to Frascati for an afternoon free to explore the town.
On the following day we visit two spectacular gardens south of Rome. In the morning we go to a private garden, created by Dan Pearson over the last twenty years, in the ruins of a medieval fortress. Camphor trees guard the entrance, wisteria and roses cover the ancient walls and pink and white-flowered Judas trees blossom in the early summer. After lunch we continue to Ninfa, where, from the 1890s, three generations of the Caetani family transformed an abandoned medieval town into one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Gin-clear water flows through the luxurious planting that drape the ruined towers and churches. Roses riot over the old stone walls and wisteria, swathed over bridges, is reflected in the fast-flowing streams.
On the last day we start with a tour of a garden exuberantly filled with shrub and climbing roses created, over the last thirty years, by one of Italy’s most inspirational rose growers. We continue to Giardino della Landriana for lunch followed by a tour of the garden which was designed by Russell Page and the owner, Lavinia Taverna, from 1968. The result is a skilful combination of formal spaces by the house giving way to informal planting around the lake. We then return to Fiumicino Airport for a late afternoon flight to London.
Total Cost: The five days, including four nights in four-star hotels (two people sharing), dinner on the first night, four lunches, all entrance fees to ten gardens and travel by luxury air-conditioned coach (flights to and from Rome are NOT included), will cost £2,300.00 pp. For anyone requiring the single use of a double room, there will be a supplement of £220.00.
To book: call James Bolton on 01451 821804 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of the Tours Early Autumn in Normandy (September 17- 21) and Churches, Palaces and Galleries in Rome (5 -8 November) will be available soon.