Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rose Garden

When we left Rome at the end of April, one of my regrets was that I wouldn’t be seeing the wonderful rose garden in full bloom (on the lower slopes of the Aventine Hill across from the Circus Maximus).  I’m still sorry not to have seen Rome’s roses, but as it happens Florence has perhaps the best rose garden we’ve ever visited.  The iris garden that I recently wrote about is on the eastern hillside below Piazzale Michelangelo, and the Giardino delle Rose flows down the western shoulder in terraces and gentle slopes while providing entrancing views over the city.

Florence’s municipal rose garden first opened in 1895, and now has 330 varieties on show, and I really mean on show.  May is the ideal month for seeing the blooms at their finest, but what makes the garden as a whole so engaging is that it is planted in what I would call a naturalized style.  Unlike typical geometrical-plan rose gardens, this one incorporates other flowering plants, small trees, shrubs with colorful foliage, and expanses of grass with the rose bushes seemingly growing here and there at random.   

Herbaceous borders add interest.

Iris and snapdragons

Greenhouse and cultivation beds.

An amusing addition to the garden is a legacy of the late artist Jean-Michel Folon, ten large bronze sculptures, of which a few show up in these photos.  There is also a restful Japanese garden that dates from about 1995.

The giardino is open from 9 a.m. until sunset, and based on our experience I recommend Sunday morning for a visit.  Church bells from San Miniato above and from the Duomo, Santa Croce and other churches across the river made a cheerful accompaniment to the tuneful local birds. Here’s a short video to give you an idea.  If it won’t play for you or it’s missing, go to this YouTube link.

There had been a thunderstorm with heavy rain during the night before, so we were fearful that the blossoms might be ruined.  But though a few bushes had light carpets of rain-blasted petals, most were still incredible.  The multitude of buds still coming is quite amazing, both on climbers and floribunda (defined on a placard as a rose-bush with repeat-flowering blooms in bunches).   

The Pilgrim, very aromatic.

Varigata di Bologna

Emeraude d'Or

Helen Keller

Wait a minute, that's a peony!

Sally Holmes 
Modern Times

One of the older and most fragrant varieties, from 1892,
 Blanc Double de Coubert.

The Garland, an intensely fragrant variety dating from 1835.

I couldn’t include all the beautiful varieties we saw, nor can I squeeze in the intense aroma that perfumed so many of the bushes, so my advice is to plan a trip to Firenze in May and experience the Giardino delle Rose for yourself.  You’ll know you’re in the right place when you find this road sign with the rampant rose canes apparently following its instruction.  Then just duck in the secret gate at the bottom of the garden.


Entrance from Viale dei Bastioni


  1. Belle rose!!!Devo ritornare a Firenze certamente!

  2. My husband and I spent a year based in Rome for our first year of retirement. This was Sept 2007-Sept 2008. I enjoyed reading your blog and see that we had similar experiences and responses to that life. We feel that was the best year of our lives. The memories stay with us and the experience has definitely left its mark. Sounds like that was your experience as well. Bravi.