Siena may be famous for its medieval history, quaint cobblestone streets and beloved Palio horse race, but the city is also home to some pretty incredible gardens. It’s variety of green spaces offer visitors the chance to relax in the tranquillity of the shade whilst soaking up the history they’re steeped in.
At the University of Siena, you can visit the Botanical Gardens, founded in 1856 and once one of the many cultivated areas that existed within the city walls. Today, part of the garden preserves the plant species that were grown in the area, like exotic cactus plants, Tuscan ferns, fruit trees, beech trees, white firs and plants used for food, fodder and to make textiles. Maintenance of this area is part of a far-reaching landscaping plan started in 1964, while the garden’s “School” is a vast space home to geometrical flower beds, where students can research aromatic and medicinal plants. Don’t miss a trip to the greenhouse built in 1875, where you can view numerous exotic plants. And the best part? Admission is free!
Garden-goers will delight in a stroll around the grounds of Villa di Vicobello. Landscaping of this 16th-century garden is credited to Baldassare Peruzzi. Guests can still see traces of its classic style, which was modified in later years. The garden hosts a myriad of natural beauties, from lemon trees in large baked clay vases to terraced gardens that dot the hillsides. Since the 1800s, it’s hosted a greenhouse for orchids and other exotic plants.
Belcaro Castello, just outside Siena in Costafabbri,was once a medieval hamlet that was transformed into a country villa by Baldassarre Peruzzi. Take a stroll down the tree-lined avenue surrounding the castle, which hosts many of the conifers that were typical in local parks in the 19th century, including black cypress, Arizona cypress, cedars and firs. Inside the castle walls, you’ll find a “secret garden” with geometric flower beds surrounded by forest brush and potted lemon trees.
Celsa Castle in Sovicille has a Neo-Gothic garden surrounding a medieval castle. Its vast terraced Renaissance garden was perhaps created by Peruzzi. Within its balustrade walls you can find geometric labyrinth-style designs made with shrubbery. Many of its architectural elements recall 17th-century styles, while its natural elements, including cypress and cedar trees, are the result of 19th-century landscaping, when the area was used as a hunting ground.
The grandiose Villa di Cetinale in Sovicille, a few kilometres west of Siena,was designed by Carlo Fontana, a student of Bernini. Its vast 18th-century park has various parts and is full of religious symbols, while the formal garden surrounding the villa boasts a Renaissance style. Behind the villa, you can see an avenue of cypresses that leads to an upward slope known as “La Santa Scala”. Thanks to cardinal Flavio Chigi, the garden now hosts a meditative woodsy area known as “Tebaide” that’s decorated with numerous statues of saints.