The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Mid-Seventeenth Century Italian Garden Design

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96. After the middle of the seventeenth century, the celebrated Evelyn, the author of Sylva, visited Italy, and has described a number of its principal gardens. At Genoa he saw the palace of Hieronymo del Negros. �On the terrace or hilly garden there is a grove of stately trees, among which are sheep, shepherds, and wild beasts, cut very artificially in a grey stone; fountains, rocks, and fish-ponds. Casting your eyes one way, you would imagine yourself in a wilderness and silent country; sideways, in the heart of a great city.� (Evelyn's Diary, vol. i. p. 129.) At and near Florence, he says, there are more than a thousand palaces and country-houses of note. He particularises those of Boboli at the ducal residence (now the palace Pitti), in the town, in which �there was much topiary work, and columns in architecture about the hedges.� (Ibid., p. 140.) In and near Rome, he mentions those of the Borghese family, and that of Cardinal Aldobrandini at Frascati, �surpassing, in my opinion, the most delicious places I ever beheld, for its situation, elegance, plentiful waters, groves, ascents, and prospects.� He admires several hydraulic conceits, some of which still exist, and also that �of a copper ball, supported by a jet of air issuing from the floor, and continually dancing about.� (Ibid., p.282.) At Vilmarini, near Vicenza, Evelyn found an orangery, �eleven score paces long, full of fruit and blossoms. In the centre of the garden, a magnificent wire cupola, supported by slender brick piers, and richly covered with ivy. A most inextricable labyrinth.� (Memoirs, by Bray, vol. i. p. 207.)