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Historic Gardens

Enchanted Ninfa

Ninfa .. An Enchanted Setting
Cascade:  Photo © ALICE JOYCE

In 1297 Pope Bonifaciio VIII gifted Ninfa to a relative, Pietro Caetani. Yet, by the late 1300s, warring factions overran the thriving Medieval town, leaving it in ruins.

Ninfa Photo © Alice Joyce

Today… Ninfa is a landscape where gardens rise up on the site of a once-prominent 8th-century town.

Pomegranate: Alice Joyce Photo

Documentation traces Ninfa to the 1st century, when Pliny wrote of a temple constructed in homage to mythical nymphs: The Nymphs known to dwell in Ninfa’s pristine lake, the cold waters flowing from an alpine mountain source.

Ninfa : Alice Joyce photo

Look to, The English Garden Abroad, should you wish to learn more about the making of Ninfa’s gardens.
In the well-researched book, Charles Quest-Ritson follows the shaping of the present-day gardens by the creators: Three generations of the Caetani family responsible for the landscape one sees today. In particular, three ladies of English and American ancestry – laudable, artistic figures who contributed to the gardenscape.

Ninfa .. Rushing Water (Alice Joyce photo)

A breathtaking naturalism envelops the visitor to Ninfa. At every turn, the eye rests upon lush greenery, or plentiful vistas of fresh water.

NINFA frescoes : ALICE JOYCE Photo

The wistful romanticism of ancient stone walls is not easily captured in words; the stone surfaces a honey-hued canvas for fading frescoes.

NINFA Frescoes Detail:  ALICE JOYCE Photo

Importantly, the land is safe harbor for 132 species of birds, pure lake waters, and a Pontine marshland habitat. Ninfa’s 100,000-hectare property is accorded utmost respect by the governing Roffredo Caetani Foundation & curator, Lauro Marchetti. With the dawn of the 21st century, to care for the land is a primary consideration: Ninfa’s historic landscape of treasured flora and fauna is in many ways unique.

NINFA Landscape: Alice Joyce photo

Ninfa’s organically maintained gardens are located 20 km from the sea, situated at the base of the Lepini Mountains, and therefore protected from harsh winds. The gardens emerge as an idyllic natural setting. Yet, at the same time, the lush plantings are a resonant reminder of the loving touch and prescient planning of the keen-sighted garden-makers of the past.

Ninfa - Bananas, Lawn Photo © Alice Joyce

The restored castle tower overlooks magnificent architectural evergreen pines, playing off flowering cherries, aristocratic magnolias, and the contorted limbs of mature maples.

The atmosphere feels blessed as you explore pathways, coming upon long vistas of gently meandering streams flanked by an alliance of roses and rhododendrons, self-sown mahonia, and the lavish foliage of gunnera. The eye alights upon a banana grove in a sun-drenched clearing: A microclimate warmed by venerable stone walls and ruins.

Ninfa Vignette: ALICE JOYCE Photo

There is talk of a project to extend the gardens, creating a spacious nature reserve for the abundant wildlife.

Ninfa opens to the public on a limited basis, offering guided tours.

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