A MARVELOUS GARDEN
Thanks to Gelasio Caetani’s foresight, today we can enjoy the beauty of an English garden amongst the nicest of Europe, which was nominated in the year 2000 as one of “Italy’s Natural Monuments”. In 1921, the Caetani family restored a number of ruins in the ancient medieval city of Ninfa, a few kilometres away from Cisterna di Latina.
Among these renovations was a baronial palace which was transformed into the family’s summer estate, as well as a garden at the foot of Mount Lepini. At the same time, Ada Wilbraham, Gelasio Caetani’s mother, who was an expert botanist, planted the first cypresses, holm oaks, beech trees and rosettes, which she had collected throughout the course of her vast international travels.
The most credit must be given to Marguerite Chapin, Roffredo Caetani’s wife, and to her daughter, Leila. Starting in the early thirties the two ladies transformed Ninfa into a beautiful English garden, and chose to emphasize its natural beauty. The only exception were areas in which flower beds were planted, the land they grew on was left, to some extend to itself, consenting to the natural growth and cycle of plants.
The blessed southern exposure, south of Ninfa, which is protected from the winds by the Lepini Mountains, is ornate with numerous karst springs and crossed by the River Ninfa, which have allowed the growth of tropical plants such as the banana, the avocado and the manned gunner from South America.
As one strolls through the medieval ruins, he or she may encounter thousands of diverse and rare species worthy of note, such as poplars, birches, pines, cypresses, cherry trees, Japanese maples, hornets, acanthuses, ornamental apple trees, roaring rose bushes, magnolias, irises, bamboo shoots, camellias and honeysuckles.
The particular plant choice is purposeful in the sense that it allows for a year round flowering, and allows for a self-serving caring process. Macerated nettle, lime, propolis and a variety of insectivorous birds make the garden of Ninfa a small heaven on earth. One must visit it at least once in his or her lifetime.