Garden Destination: Gardone Riviera, Italy

January 3, 2011

Am I the only one that is soooo happy the holidays are over?  Finally, a moment to sit back and reflect over the last month or so.  My holiday season really started with a trip to Italy over Thanksgiving.   I had a great time, and in particular, enjoyed a couple of gardens.  Had I not been traveling at the height of low season, I would be able to share more, but through the magic of the internet I think I can whip up a little mini guide to some of the best garden places.


The Guardian at Il Vittoriale, Gardone Riviera, Italy.

Just about 20 minutes north of the train line between Milan and Venice lies a beautiful glacial lake.  Lake Garda is spectacular. Long and skinny with steep mountains hugging either side, this club shaped lake has many treasures on its shores.   Our visit was to just one town, Gardone Riviera.  I choose it for a few reasons….first, the hotel (Due di Moro), was one of the few on the lake that was open at this time of year,  it is somewhere between a Relais and Chateau expensive plush unaffordable place and backpacker ghetto and it sported a few nice rooms and a restaurant that served garden fresh food.   And second, Gardone Riviera is home to a couple of famous garden attractions.

I did not get to see the full extent of the Andre Heller Botanic Garden — I was reduced to walking around it and peaking through the fence where ever I could.  But as one of the two main reasons to head to this little lake side town, I have gathered some images to help you have an even better view of what I glimpsed over the walls.

1. Giardino Botanico – Fondazione Andre Heller – Gardone Riviera, 2. DPP_10329, 3. Giardino Botanico – Fondazione Andre Heller – Gardone Riviera – pyramids, 4. Giardino Botanico – Fondazione Andre Heller – Gardone Riviera – bridge, 5. Giardino Botanico – Fondazione Andre Heller – Gardone Riviera – elephant sculpture – Ganesh, 6. 23. September 2009: In André Hellers Garten in Gardone, Italien, 7. Keith Haring sculpture in the Giardino Botanico, 8. Gardasee2005 285qa, 9. Giardino Botanico – Fondazione Andre Heller – Gardone Riviera – Buddha, 10. Im Rampenlicht – in the spotlight

What I DID get to see, in all its soggy wet, rainy, glory what the unbeleivable Il Vittoriale. The shrine of Italian victories (in English) is the hillside estate of Italian writer and military hero Gabriele d’Annunzio. He lived here and created this house and garden between 1922 and his death in 1938. The house itself is an extraordinary collection of stuff, displayed in an unforgettable manner.  If you suffer from any sort of visual stimulation malady, severe claustrophobia, or extreme impatience for the utterly self absorbed, I don’t recommend it.   I am not even going to try and describe it….you simply have to see it for yourself.  It is absolutely worth the price of admission.

And as if the interiors where not enough, the cacophony spills out into the garden.  In general it is very Italian in style, that is, if you overlook the myriad of eclectic and random art works, the plethora of shrines (mostly to himself and his compatriots) and the overwhelming ode to his own military escapades.  This includes having a cruiser (as in the actual military ship Puglia) set into the side of the mountain.   I couldn’t get over that particular feature….let me repeat, as a garden feature, half of a ship is shoved into the side of the mountain so that as you walk down the hillside path, instead of a deck or some other look out perch,  you walk out onto the deck of the ship.


Fascinatingly, there is a grotto-like feature carved into the hillside where the boat meets the dirt. Inside there is a small display of photos taken during this installation of this particular feat of garden engineering.


The place will take you the better part of a day to get through, particularly if you visit when the weather is good and there crowds (rather unlike when I visited).  You may also think about taking in a show at the garden’s amphitheater — the backdrop of which is a beautiful view of the lake and mountains on the other side.


1. Untitled, 2. IMG_3521, 3. Around Garda Lake – Foliage 3 and Art, 4. Around Garda Lake – Foliage 2, 5. Ponte delle Teste di Ferro, 6. Vittoriale degli Italiani – 19, 7. Vittoriale 07, 8. la nave puglia, 9. Sbirciando nel giardino di D’annunzio, 10. Colonne, 11. ilvittoriale 149, 12. Il Vittoriale, 13. Il Vittoriale, 14. Il Vittoriale, 15. Vittoriale

I have a couple other gardens to share from my trip but will do that next week.

I am excited about new year ahead and all my resolutions, which really amount to a set of goals and a structure that I have put in place to help me reach them.   One of my first New Years resolutions:  Post at least 3 times per day,  Mon -Fri, on regular time slots and follow an editorial schedule.

Mondays will cover Destinations, Events, and DIY. – I am working on the full schedule now and as I roll it out, I will be posting it on the soon to re-vamped ‘about’ page.  I am so excited for the new year….what about you…what are your big new years goals?

REgister now!

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  1. lucky you to visit italy and tour gardens! that cobalt blue horse is magnificent. i enjoyed all the photos! happy new year! (i’m excited for 2011, too!!)

  2. louise says:

    Resolutions? I think I need a caffeine drip permanently installed in order to catch the energetic spirit..or perhaps a wordpress lesson or two would help- my progress is creeping along. As always you are an inspiration, Rochelle. Thanks.


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