In this travel photography blog post I’ll tell you of the Garden of Ninfa, the most beautiful and romantic garden in the world. Don’t you believe me? Well, read on and see what this wonder of central Italy enshrines.
Before I start to narrate the story and the peculiarities of this place, I’d like to show you a video, entirely shot and edited by me, that I hope can convey the magical atmosphere and the timeless beauty of the Garden of Ninfa.
Well, if the video has made you want to know more, let’s start saying that, what in the present time is a garden, in the past was a real town, an ancient and important one. Its birth dates back to the Roman era but, of the last two thousand years, the Medieval period embraces the crucial events which determined the fate of the ancient town.
A bit of history about the Garden of Ninfa:
During the eleventh century Ninfa was a prosperous town, in virtue of the proximity of the Appian Way: it boasted many important structures, such as hospices, a castle and as many as seven churches, besides the town hall, everything enclosed in surrounding walls, enforced with guard towers. The highest tower of the main castle was a tangible symbol of power of the Caetani family, an eminent name in Rome that had a direct connection with pope Bonifacio VIII. A unique peculiarity of Ninfa is related to its churches, which were named by pope Alessandro III as the important churches and basilicas of Rome.
In that period the town of Ninfa became so relevant that pope Alessandro III has been crowned there; unfortunately, from that moment on, it suffered of a grievous destiny, due to serious disputes between papal families, to the point that it has been eventually burned to the ground. To make the things worse, the only attempt by the last inhabitants to keep living in what remained of Ninfa has been spoiled by the widening of the near pontine marshes, which caused the outbreak of malaria.
Fast forward to the modern era, we can see that malaria has been eradicated at last, thanks to the reclamation of the marshes: in the first half of the twentieth century, before the second world war, Mussolini undertook the “bonifica integrale”, a massive project which radically altered the appearance of the Agro Pontino. The use of DDT and the insertion of an exotic species of fish that eats mosquito larvae got the better on the disease (even if with heavy side effects in the form of pollution and ecosystem’s equilibrium state). The landscape visually changed: the extensive insertion of Eucalyptus trees helped to reduce drastically the water in excess, thanks to their high draining capability (the biggest trees absorb up to a whopping 200 hundred liters a day!) and furthermore they act as an effective windbreak. Leaving out the ignominious and dreadful damages and consequences left by the second world war, we can now take for granted that the Agro Pontino is a safe and fertile plain.
Discovering the wonders of the Garden of Ninfa:
After two thousand years, Ninfa couldn’t be more different than it was in the past, but in a positive way, luckily: since the first half of the twentieth century, the last heirs of the Caetani noble family have put all their efforts to transform the remains of an ancient town in a wonderful garden.
The Garden of Ninfa has many unique peculiarities: the Caetani family imported from all over the world numerous species of plants, from the many varieties of roses to japanese maple and cherry trees, to avocado and bamboo. There are more than 1500 species which grow lush, thanks to the perfect microclimate originated by the favorable position of the area, at the foot of the Lepini mountains and not too distant from the sea.
In spring the entire garden is an unbelievable blaze of colors: every path, every corner, lawn and passage is full of beautiful kinds of flowers, bushes and trees. To an unfocused eye, the garden may seem cluttered, but every element has a well thought placement, as in the english gardens of the eighteenth century; that style of designing gardens featured elements like “belvedere”, bridges, small temples and often even replicas of ancient ruins. In this regard, the Garden of Ninfa could be the most genuine landscape garden, since the ruins are an essential part of it and they are truly authentic.
The organic and harmonious fusion between the remains of ancient walls, towers and bridges and the many types and shapes of plants, creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere, a unique journey into a timeless beauty, an incomparable experience. This is why the Garden of Ninfa is considered one of the most romantic gardens in the world.
Strolling in the garden is an endless delight: you’ll be astounded by the view of a bell tower that stands out against the trees. Taking the adorned brick path that crosses a broad lawn, abound with vibrant multicolored flowers and bushes, you’ll come across another fascinating place: there, a gorgeous sight of an ancient bridge which crosses the calm river Ninfa, emerald colored by the underwater plants, will make you wish to stop and enjoy a little bit more the beautiful tranquility of that little corner of paradise.
One of the most breathtaking moment of visiting the Garden of Ninfa is reaching the remains of the castle: the majestic structure has completely lost its roof, so the sun enlightens the inner spaces; just walking through the rooms is an exciting experience because a soft green grass has replaced the floor and, if you look upward, you’ll see the windows of the upper floor decorated with sinuous creepers which open a glimpse of a blue sky.
I could go on with the depiction of the wonders of the Garden of Ninfa, but I hope you will have the chance to live in person this amazing experience and enjoy with your own senses the pleasure of discovering one of the most romantic and enchanting gardens in the world.
Some practical informations about the Garden of Ninfa:
If you plan to visit the Garden of Ninfa, you have to know that there are one or two complications to deal with:
Due to the delicate ecosystem, the garden opens just a few days a year: for example, from April to November 2017, there are just 26 days available and the visits are run as limited time (1 hour) guided tours. As a result it’s often sold-out, so I strongly recommend you to book your visit in advance on the dedicated web page (italian language only) and not to waste time once you’re in… You’ll probably be pulled by your group’s tourist guide and pushed at the same time by the following group’s one. For more informations, just have a look of the official page of the Caetani foundation.
Getting there is quite tricky if you don’t have a car: from Rome, you’ll need to take the train at Termini Station (Rome’s main station) to Cisterna di Latina and then hop on a shuttle that will take you to the garden. Be aware that in Italy, most of the times, the transports don’t respect the timetables, so get out early!
By car is easier and it will take about 90 minutes from Rome’s center; just follow the route on Google Maps.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the reading, the video “trailer” and the photos and I wish you to experience the emotions of discovering the wonderful Garden of Ninfa. If you need more informations or if you want to comment, just drop a line down below in the comment section.