Exploits of a global garden adventuress
As a garden designer, one of the most important parts of my job is visiting gardens. I do this to get inspiration, to learn, to develop my eye for different styles and techniques and to indulge my passion for travel.
Over the years I have visited some amazing gardens around the world as I methodically check the best of the best off my bucket list. If you are interested in gardens, design, history, beauty, plants and travel then this series of blogs is for you!
First we will be heading to the Amalfi Coast of Italy, which I was lucky to visit this summer. If you have never been to the Amalfi Coast, everything is built on extremely steep slopes. This of course lends itself to beautiful vistas. For me, the most striking part of the scenery was the way the blue of the sky merged with the blue of the sea where they meet.
Villa Cimbrone, Ravello
One of the most beautiful and evocative gardens on the Amalfi Coast is Villa Cimbrone. The Villa is located in Ravello, a town nestled in the hills near Amalfi. Ravello has a beautiful atmosphere and it’s no surprise that it has traditionally been a destination for artists, musicians and writers, including Edvard Grieg, M. C. Escher, Virginia Woolf, Greta Garbo, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Jacqueline Kennedy and Leonard Bernstein.
The original Villa Cimbrone has been around since at least the 11th century, although not much of the original building is visible now. In the early 20th century Ernest William Beckett, an eccentric British banker and Conservative politician, developed the gardens. Beckett constructed battlements, terraces and cloisters to make the most of the garden’s stunning location high above the Gulf of Salerno.
The garden combines Gothic, Moorish and Venetian architectural styles in an charming mix of formal, English rose beds, Moorish tea houses, picturesque grottoes and classical temples. Vita Sackville-West (of Sissinghurst fame) reputedly visited the villa and provided advice to Beckett on the garden.
Terrace of Infinity
The garden at Villa Cimbrone is a rare example of a place with an overwhelming genius loci. The jewel of the garden is the Terrazzo dell'lnfinito (the Terrace of Infinity), which provides panoramic views of the Amalfi Coast - and also provides a strong sense of vertigo if you look over the edge of the terrace at the drop straight down to the coast!
The terrace is lined with busts, which look inward and are not lucky enough to enjoy the magnificent views. Standing on the terrace was a truly intoxicating experience. The huge expanse of blue sea and sky combined with height of the terrace imparts a powerful appreciation of the wonder and beauty of nature.
On a practical note, the walk up to the Villa is not particularly strenuous by Amalfi Coast standards and the lush garden has plenty of shade to protect you from the hot hot sun. If you ever get the chance, please visit this garden, you will not be disappointed.