SIGURTÀ GARDEN PARK
The enchantment of tulips from ancient Persia to the Mincio Valleys
Photographs Cristina Archinto
Text Carla De Agostini
Despite the cold weather at the end of March, the tulips in the Sigurtà Garden have sprouted!
On the border between Veneto and Lombardy, in Valeggio sul Mincio, the 60 hectares of the Park have become colourful thanks to Tulipanomania, the richest tulip flowering in Italy, the second richest in Europe, with over a million bulbs.
The route of about 10 km along porphyry paths enchants the visitor among fairy-tale glades and monuments in memory of the Sigurtà family. Punctuated by sweeping views of the Mincio, the itinerary crosses small bridges, sheets of water, reaches the flowerbeds of the Great Grassland Carpet and the floating, rotating islands in the Laghetti Fioriti. Every corner is a surprise, not only for the tulips but also for the daffodils, mosses, hyacinths and fritillaries. The arrangement of the flowers is the result of an in-depth study that guarantees perfect colour, with hundreds of multicoloured shades. And spring after spring, the flowerbeds are renewed, always offering new spectacles.
The property, first owned by the Contarini family, then by the Maffei family, was purchased in 1941 by Giuseppe Carlo Sigurtà, who opened it to the public in 1978. The area soon became a nature park and in 2019 the Sigurtà Gardens were awarded by the World Tulip Society for excellence in promoting and celebrating the tulip. Today Tulipanomania is a real festival that exalts its beauty.
The history of the tulip starts in the East: from the Persian delband, which means headdress or turban. The first cultivations took place in Turkey where it became very popular in the 16th century. During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, numerous varieties were developed and exported from his court to Vienna, then to Holland and England.
The choice of the name Tulipanomania recalls the Tulip Fever that broke out in Holland in the first half of the 17th century. In those years the demand for tulips reached such a peak that every single bulb fetched incredible prices: in 1623 some bulbs cost as much as a thousand Dutch guilders. Considering that the average annual income at the time was 150 guilders, bulbs became an asset to invest in, exchanged for land, livestock or houses.
In 1630, to meet the demands of the market, there were more than 140 different species of tulips registered in Holland alone: single-colour hybrids, multi-coloured with streaks, strokes or flaming leaves, all competing to create the most beautiful and rare tulip. The record price was set for the most famous bulb, the Semper Augustus, which sold in Haarlem for 6,000 guilders. In 1636 they became Holland's fourth most important export, but by the end of that year the 'Tulip Bubble' had reached its peak and burst, sending many people broke. The fever resumed in England in 1800, where the price of a single bulb reached fifteen guineas, a sum that was enough to ensure a worker and his family food, clothing and shelter for at least six months. But no other country in Europe matched the level of tulip mania of the Dutch.
Today's Tulipanomania at the Sigurtà Garden has the theme of the ecological garden at heart; awarded the European Award for Ecological Gardening, the Park raises public awareness by promoting visits on foot, by bicycle, in an electric golf-cart or in a little retro train that follows the Itinerary of Enchantments with a multilingual guide. The creation of the Labyrinth, inaugurated in 2011 on an area formerly used as a car park, is along the same lines of thought. One thousand five hundred yew trees grow there, more than two metres tall, creating natural geometries on a rectangular area of 2,500 square metres. From the tower at the centre of the Labyrinth, you can admire the Great Oak, which has stood for over four centuries.
At the end of the visit, you will have the feeling that you have not seen everything. The great variety of places will be the perfect excuse to return and discover the Garden, in search of new colours and blooms at new times of the year.