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The gardens of Villa Cimbrone were originally a vast, rich estate that was already sought after in late Roman times for its valuable timber, its strategic and dominant position, and above all its rare and precious stretches of flat ground that were suitable for farming, unlike the steep, rugged slopes of the surrounding area.
Until the second half of the nineteenth century, most of the Cimbrone area continued to be used as woodland and for agriculture, with large orchards, olive groves, citrus trees and vineyards for wine. However, an early mark was made by the Fusco family in the late Renaissance period. They added some large ornamental terracotta pots and created the central path that crosses the entire property from the North to the South and ends with the pavilion before the panoramic terrace.
Nonetheless, it was after Ernest William Beckett discovered and then bought the estate in the early twentieth century that the design of the gardens we see today was conceived. An extremely important contribution was made by the famous English landscaper Vita Sackville-West, a friend of Lucille Beckett and Gertrude Jekyll, whose precious botanical texts were consulted and are still carefully stored in the Villa’s private library today.
With pre-existing elements partially dictating the design, the gardens were set out in line with the aesthetic concepts of English architects and landscapers such as Harold Peto, Edwin Lutyens and Jekyll in particular. Various “episodes” and emotional trails were expertly organized, branching off from the main backbone provided by the Renaissance path created by the Fusco family.
Numerous splendid decorative elements were included among the rich, varied native and exotic collection of plants: fountains, nymphaea, small temples, pavilions and statues. This was due to the strong influence of classical literature and reinterpretations of the “Roman villa”, which were very much in vogue at the time.
Guide to the flora and a few botanical points
Most of the trees in the gardens are around 100 years old, except for a few Pinus Pinea and a valued Nolina Recurvata that was planted by the Fusco family in the mid 1800s.
On the lawn in front of the entrance to the Villa there is a marvellous Phoenix Canariensis that stands around 12 m tall. It is a remarkable specimen, considering the fact that this palm usually has a trunk that is sturdy but does not get any taller than 6 to 8 metres (the dactylifera on the other hand is more slender and can reach as high as 20 m). There are a number of Cycas Revoluta in various areas of the grounds, almost all of which are around a century old.
Among the plants most representative of the native vegetation are rows (which are extremely colourful in springtime) of Cercis Siliquastrum, Viburnum Tinus and Arbutus Unedo (strawberry trees), some old and enormous specimens of which can be found here (8 m - 9 m), in places even in thickets.See Photogallery