Our long-awaited day to visit the Rosa Botanica -Carla Fineschi Gardens in, Italy, an hour south of Florence, arrived. (Visited May 29th, 2019).
Set on a Tuscan hillside in the small town of Cavriglia, Arezzo we were met by an Italian woman sitting in an old garden shed out of the rain, who took our 6 euros to view the famous rose garden. We had become accustomed to hearing since arriving in Florence that the weather had been unseasonably wet.
On greeting the lovely Italian guardian of roses, she exclaimed “Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia” repeatedly, and we both laughed. It was one of those moments where our laughter crossed any language barriers we may have had. She knew that we must be very keen on roses to venture out in what was by now heavy rain, and I knew that this had been the case for at least three to four weeks and showed no signs of finishing.
As we had travelled more than 16,000 kilometres to visit the garden, we were undeterred and set off with her large umbrella and our raincoats to view the quite incredible display of rose blooms. Many of the rose blooms were rain-damaged, so not the best to photograph, but one could imagine the full spring bloom. The sight of so many roses was overwhelming, and we were surrounded by the abundant heavy flowers in every imaginable colour growing in beds by species, subspecies, and hybridization.
Each plant comes with a tag with basic identification information – the botanical name, the year of introduction into Europe, and the possibility of producing hybrids.
The Botanical Rose Garden in Cavriglia is a private garden and living museum. The perfect setting for research and study of the world’s rarest and most unique roses that will also provide a complete history of the rose – cultural and scientific.
The garden is extraordinary and quite remarkable when considered in the light of being just one man’s life long passion for roses. It was founded in 1967 by Professor Gianfranco Fineschi who was a surgeon and teacher of medicine at the Catholic University in Rome.
Roseto Botanico “Carla Fineschi” is thought to be the world’s largest rose garden with a collection of 8,000 roses including 6,500 species and varieties of different roses, from the antique roses to the modern roses, ramblers and climbers, on an acre of land. The garden opens from the 1st Sunday in May until the last Sunday of June and is outside of Florence to the south about 50 kilometres.
It was an awe-inspiring experience to view in one place so many roses. There were gorgeous old pots, statues, climbing frames and bamboo trellises interspersed amongst the array of blooms. It is a massive collection, all so beautifully kept, weed-free, labelled and perfect for thorough rose research. The overall atmosphere of the actual garden is more like a humble farm rather than a developed tourist destination or what should be a national treasure. First and foremost, it was a well-loved and cared for sanctuary to preserve what Professor Gianfranco had established in the 1960s.
The weather by now was very wet, and it was disappointing not to be able to reach in and read what the types and varieties of each rose were because it was simply far too muddy underfoot. I needed a whole dry day here or longer to write notes and really gain from the visit, but today was not the day for it. Thankfully the sun did come out for a short while but not really long enough to appreciate the full sensual experience and fragrance of so many roses. Nonetheless, I was delighted to be able to see what we could and it was a real highlight of my trip to Tuscany.
Although the masses of blooms were in part water damaged, it was wonderful to be in the famous garden. We loved the range of colours in the blooms as they were astonishing in their vividness and bright, rich colour. In contrast, the next turn of the path would change to great walls of soft pale pinks, crisp whites and soft peach colours. But what really caught my eye in the grey of the day were the deep oranges, reds and especially the yellow roses that stood out and glowed on our dull day.
Of special interest to me were the single flat trellis frames for the climbers along the avenue of beds made of thick bamboo as in this picture I took below. I often think of climbing roses growing in an English style against a house, wall or archway. Here the trellises were free-standing creating walls along the wide paths which I imagine give the roses plenty of space and air circulation.
Also noted was the importance of appealing objects in the garden, such as statues, sculptures and metalwork that seemed to add focal points to the garden’s design. A random hen, cat and peacock would occasionally wander past us too.
Fortunately, you can pick up a plan at the entrance and walk easily to your chosen interest. There are roses galore from every rose breeder across the world and all the names I’ve grown to love such as Kordes, Harkness, McGredy, Meilland, Beales, Austin, Weekes, Dickson and more.
There are also ancient, rare roses, a massive collection of climbers and the largest Standard roses I have ever seen.
As we walked the acre garden, I felt that we were on a farm, in a garden and a living museum with a distinct air of reverence to the founder. The garden walk along the numerous paths and terraces is enjoyable, and the roses are all labelled and interspersed with nooks and crannies, garden benches and lovely spots to sit and enjoy the garden. One could imagine a sunny day with an afternoon tea under the arbour of roses.
The sound of peacocks, chooks and other birds filled the air as the sun started to come out, and the ginger cat decided he liked us and came along with us. Roses were in abundance with olive trees, shrubs and expanses of stone walls highlighted the sentiments of the occasional rose quote added to the charm of this enviable garden. The visit was, in so many ways, was unique, breathtaking and highly educational to be in such an extraordinary garden yet at the same time a humbling, peaceful experience.
I am in total awe at the work that must have gone into creating the Carla Fineschi garden, but I’m also encouraged. The work involved from my efforts building a rose garden in rural Australia seems nothing much at all in comparison. I hope I remember this when tending my small garden of 300 roses that doesn’t sound so large after all now.
One day when I get to travel again after Covid is over this is my destination rain, hail or shine but let’s hope sunshine next time. If you get there before me these are the contact details. Carla Fineschi garden is highly recommended if you love roses and is pot luck as to what may be in bloom when you arrive. Modern roses and old fashioned roses all have varying bloom times so take it as it comes. For me roses and quotes galore what more could one want?
Località Casalone 76 Cavriglia – 52022 Cavriglia(AR)
Content and Photos Di Baker All Rights Reserved 2019