Gardens of Liguria

Liguria is famous above all for its coastal towns and villages set between the blue waters of the Mediterranean and the green mountains inland. But this fascinating region offers many less familiar attractions, such as historic parks and gardens dating back to the romantic era of the 19th century, and even further back to the Renaissance. Here are five examples, all easily reached from Genoa either by road or by boat.

Villa Della Pergola, Alassio

The Gardens of Villa della Pergola in Alassio present a rare example of landscaped gardens in Italy, and they express the close contacts between England and Genova – which share the same flag – from the Crusades through to the age of the romantic poets. These gardens were commissioned by General McMurdo in 1875, and they were later owned by Virginia Woolf’s cousin Sir Walter Darlymple, and then by Daniel Hanbury who added many species to the gardens from 1922. Today the Park is famous for the diversity of its Mediterranean and exotic flora, and for its seasonal blossoms. Its collections include the glycine family with over 30 varieties, and the largest European collection of Agapanthus, with over 400 species.

Villa della Pergola Alassio

Villa Durazzo Pallavicini, Genova Pegli

The Pallavicini Park in Pegli dates back to the mid-19th century, and it represents a point of excellence amongst European romantic gardens. It covers eight hectares of hillside in Pegli, once a fishing village but now part of Genoa, and it is unusual in that it combines botany with philosophy, with a wealth of esoteric and masonic references. The landscapes comprise a series of lakes, streams, waterfalls, Arcadian buildings, and the oldest Italian collection of camellias.

Villa Pallavicini Genova Pegli

Villa Serra, Comago, Sant’Olcese

Not far from Genoa, the park of Villa Serra in Comago covers an area of nine hectares. Its construction dates back to the mid 19th-century, in the English-style landscaped gardens that were so popular at that time, and the buildings that were added include a Tudor-style cottage and a tower with battlements. The park was reopened in 1992 after restoration work that brought it back to its original appearance, with its delightful views in an evocative setting.

Villa Serra di Comago

La Cervara, Abbazia di San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino

Monte di Portofino, the hill above the eponymous village, is itself a beautiful setting. It was here that in 1361 a group of Benedictine monks founded a monastery which now includes the only Italianate garden in Liguria facing the sea. The Giardino Monumentale comprises the characteristically geometric borders typical of this style, and the ancient vineyard is cultivated in the same way. Highlights include a centennial glycine, a rhyncospermum, and the Herb Garden which features a collection of rare citrus species in pots.

Abbazia della Cervara Abbazia di San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino

Villa Durazzo, Santa Margherita Ligure

The park of Villa Durazzo covers three hectares at the centre of the attractive village of Santa Margherita. It comprises three areas, the Citrus Grove, the Italian-Style Garden, the landscaped Romantic Woodland, along with the delightful Secret Garden, and the Virna Lisi rose garden.

Villa Durazzo Pallavicini Santa Margherita Ligure

This heritage of Ligurian gardens has been enhanced and promoted by the partnership between Marina Genova ( and Ligurian Gardens ( as part of the project “Le vie del mare.” All five gardens can be reached by boat, in cooperation with the charter organization AYT Associazione Yacht Travel.


A different dimension of flight: the air taxi

An executive jet seems like something totally inaccessible for most people. But in actual fact there are some companies who run fleets of small jets providing interesting transport solutions for a variety of users. I was lucky enough to be able to try out this personalised form of of transport, on a trip from Linate airport in Milan to the Cannes Yachting Festival. The Cessna Citation Mustang operated by GlobeAir transports just four passengers, and its reduced size means that it can take off and land in some of the smallest airports, inaccessible to airliners. This more human dimension of air transport began at Linate airport where the Commander and Co-Pilot came to meet us in the building and took us to the aircraft. Soon we were climbing through the cloud towards the sunshine. After we had levelled out, the Commander turned to us and asked us if we wanted some coffee. For a man, the idea of being flown by a beautiful woman is like something out of James Bond movies, but in this case it was really happening to me. I was fascinated by everything that was going on in the cockpit just a few feet away, with Ana Borges dedicating constant attention to the controls and the avionic screens. I couldn’t resist the temptation of asking her a few questions about her life as a pilot.

Citation Mustang

Ana’s passion for flying began when she was very small. Her father was an aircraft technician at TAP Portugal, and he often took her to the maintenance hangars and showed her all the parts of the aeroplanes on which he was working, and she was fascinated. At the age of 17 Ana tried to join the Portuguese Air Force without success. So she studied engineering at university and began taking lessons for a Private Pilot’s Licence. That was just the start of a gruelling career path. I asked Anna about the difficulties of being a female commander.

“Being a commander is very challenging, both for men and women: there are a lot of responsibilities. For women it’s a bit more demanding, as I feel that we need to prove more than men to achieve the same goals and to see our professionalism and skills recognized. Fortunately, things are changing and now I’m in a company that respects women and men equally, and that is fighting to change the industry’s mentality. Last year our CEO, Bernhard Fragner, made one of his dreams came true: having a full female crew operating some of our flights. At GlobeAir there are now five female pilots and, in particular one of the commanders, Léa Thierry, apart from being an amazing colleague and inspiration, also holds the title of Line Training Commander and Safety Manager.”

Ana Borges

Flying along the south coast of Italy and France, the views were amazing. There was a strong Mistral blowing and the sunlight glinted off the waves. The plane seemed to move around a bit more than a big airliner. I asked her about the pleasure of flying this sort of plane.

“The Mustang is a compact jet. I think everyone dreams of flying the big jets, but I always wanted to fly in business aviation, which gives us the chance to fly to many different places and the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of hand flying more often. And our destinations include some really interesting places, Zeltweg and Egelsbach in Germany, Lugano, Bolzano, Innsbruck, Samedan and Sion in the Alps, London City, Cannes and Le Castellet in France, to name just a few.”

GlobeAir Citation Mustang

It sounds like a glamorous life, I said. Ana replied, “There’s nothing glamorous about my life. Generally, we have a very busy schedule and a lot of responsibility, constant training and assessment, and we’re away from home a lot. It is a very tiring job. But it also means a dream come true: you can turn your passion into your profession.” The approach down to Cannes Airport was very exciting. The aircraft seemed to be yawing from side to side in the strong wind, but Ana had everything under control and after a perfect landing, soon we were taxiing towards the airport building. I had time to ask Anna just one last question. What are the main reasons why passengers choose a private jet?

“I think most of our passengers, business executives and entrepreneurs, value our service for the time-savings and flexibility that a flight operated on demand can offer. Our air taxi service works more or less like a luxury taxi. The entire process, from booking to take off, is very smooth. Travellers can book their jet in seconds on our website or via our 24/7 Customer Care service, and in a few hours an aircraft will be ready for take-off from their preferred airport. With 16 Citation Mustang jets, GlobeAir is able to position one of its aircrafts with very short notice anywhere in Europe, connecting more than 1,500 airports. Upon arrival, we can wait for their meeting to end and take them back and, within a certain margin, we can adjust the departure time, and even change the destination if necessary.”

So it’s a special service for passengers, and a special job for the pilot. As Ana said, “When pilots tell you what they have to do the next day, they don’t say ‘I’m going to work tomorrow,’ they say ‘I’m going to fly tomorrow’!”

Henry Neuteboom