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Carla Fineschi Rose Garden, Tuscany


It is time to re-post my story about the Carla Fineschi Rose garden in Arezzo Tuscany because it has been renamed “Gianfranco and Carla Fineschi Botanical Rose Garden Association” and according to their website

The ROSETO BOTANICO GIANFRANCO AND CARLA FINESCHI ASSOCIATION, commonly known as “Roseto Fineschi” since 2015 has replaced the “Roseto Botanico Carla Fineschi di Cavriglia” Foundation, which was established in 1994. The Association pursues the same aims as the Foundation to preserve biodiversity and the genetic heritage of the genus Rosa.

I noted from their website that every year in the summer a concert is organised by the ‘Terre d’Arezzo Music Festival’ and is on at the Rose Garden and they are also running pruning courses at the garden.

Sadly, living in Australia especially, in the times of Covid prevent regular visits but if you live closer to Tuscany then it is highly recommended.

Our long-awaited day to visit the Rosa Botanica -Carla Fineschi Gardens in, Italy, an hour south of Florence, arrived on the 29th of May 2019. It had been a desire to visit the famous garden for some time to view the expected 8000 roses. And like we are experiencing in Australia at present the weather was against us from the start.

Set on a Tuscan hillside in the small town of Cavriglia, Arezzo on arrival we were met by an Italian woman sitting in an old garden shed out of the pouring rain. We had become accustomed to hearing since arriving in Florence the week before, that the weather had been unseasonably wet for over a month. Undeterred, we handed the lovely Italian lady our 6 euros to view the famous rose garden.

On greeting us 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.

“But he that dares not grasp the thorn, should never crave the rose”

Ann Bronte

As we had travelled more than 16,000 kilometres to visit the garden, we set off with her large umbrella and our raincoats to view the quite incredible display of rose blooms. Suffice to say many of the rose blooms were rain-damaged. It was not the best day to photograph roses, but one could imagine the full spring bloom even so. The sight of so many roses was overwhelming, and we were surrounded by the abundant heavy flowers in every imaginable colour growing in beds designed 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 remarkable when considered in the light of being just one man’s lifelong 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.

“The layout of the rose garden follows traditional botanical structure exactly, with the roses planted in separate spaces according to their subdivision into species, sub-species and hybrids. Each plant is marked with a tag giving basic details (the botanical name, the year it was introduced into Europe, and whether or not it can engender hybrids).

Regione Toscana Cultura

It was an awe-inspiring experience to view so many roses in one place. 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 rather like a humble farm 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.

“Today, with the benefit of hindsight, I have to say that it is easy to get passionate about roses, because this is a plant so rich in varieties, shapes, colours, fragrances, postures, it is so rich in history, and therefore it is also a plant rich in biodiversity, and I imagine that my father, being, in fact, a scientist, must have automatically become very keen also on the biodiversity of the roses.”

Daughter of Gianfranco Fineschi

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 and we wandered for a long time amongst the damaged blooms. We loved the range of colours in the roses; 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 area. 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 at once; on a farm, in a garden and viewing 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 adding to the charm of this enviable garden. The visit was, in so many ways, unique, breathtaking and highly educational. To be able to see such an extraordinary garden was a humbling, peaceful experience that since 2019 I often refer back to for inspiration.

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 in my own efforts in a rural rose garden in Australia seems nothing much at all in comparison.

“A garden that one makes oneself becomes associated with one’s personal history and that of one’s friends, interwoven with one’s tastes, preferences and character, and constitutes a sort of unwritten, but withal manifest, autobiography. Show me your garden, provided it be your own, and I will tell you what you are like.”

Alfred Austin 1835-1913

One day, when I can visit Italy again after Covid is over, this will be on my “to visit again list “- no matter the rain, hail or sunshine. If you get there before me these are the contact details. Carla Fineschi Garden is highly recommended if you love roses.

Località Casalone 76 Cavriglia – 52022 Cavriglia(AR)

366 2063941

Content and Photos Di Baker

All Rights Reserved 2019

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