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 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 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.
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.
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.
This heritage of Ligurian gardens has been enhanced and promoted by the partnership between Marina Genova (www.marinagenova.it) and Ligurian Gardens (www.liguriangardens.com) 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.