by Helena Attlee
To many of us, the great gardens of Italy seem like paradise on earth. But how much do we know of their history, and the people who created them? In this ravishing new book, illustrated with contemporary paintings, drawings and prints as well as photographs of the gardens today, Helena Attlee tells their story. She starts with Petrarch – still looking to medieval chronicles for advice on how and when to plant – and goes on to the Renaissance and those first gardens to emerge from architects’ plans. Then she describes the great gardens of the Medici; the first botanic gardens; the weird Mannerist gardens and their grottoes followed by the Baroque splendour of Isola Bella and the Villa Aldobrandini; the Neoclassical and Picturesque gardens of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and how, in the twentieth century, expatriates with money to lavish on their villas and gardens brought new delights.