Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

27 Apr – 19 May 2020

  • Region:
    • Early Bird
    • Europe
    • Italy
    • Spring in Europe
  • Status: open
  • Code: 22010

Tour Highlights

  • Join Deryn Thorpe, award-winning print and radio garden journalist, to tour the gardens of five distinct regions of Italy. Deryn will be accompanied by award-winning artist David Henderson, who brings a profound knowledge of European art to ASA tours.
  • Enjoy the magic of northern lakeside and island gardens including Villa Carlotta, Villa Balbianello, Isola Bella and Isola Madre.
  • Meet Paolo Pejrone, student of Russell Page and currently Italy’s leading garden designer. With him, view his own garden, ‘Bramafam’ and, by special appointment, the private Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa – one of Italy’s most splendid examples of garden design.
  • View Paolo Pejrone’s work during private visits to the estate of the Peyrani family and the beautiful Tenuta Banna.
  • See the work of Russell Page with an exclusive visit to the private gardens of Villa Silvio Pellico.
  • Visit intimate urban gardens in Florence and Fiesole including Le Balze, designed by Cecil Pinsent; Villa di Maiano (featured in James Ivory’s film A Room with a View); and the Giardini Corsini al Prato.
  • Ramble through the historical centres of lovely old cities like Turin, Lucca, Siena, Florence and Perugia, and encounter masterpieces of Italian art in major churches and museums.
  • Gaze out onto the Mediterranean from the spectacularly situated Abbey of La Cervara.
  • Enjoy delicious meals in the verdant surrounds of Villa di Geggiano in Tuscany and Villa Aureli in Umbria.
  • Explore the great Renaissance garden designs at Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato; and Villa Gamberaia at Settignano, described by Edith Wharton in her book Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904).
  • Marvel at the meeting of culture and nature during an exclusive visit to Paolo Portoghesi’s stunning gardens at Calcata.
  • Appreciate historic masterpieces like Villa Lante, Villa d’Este, Tivoli, and the Giardini di Ninfa.
  • Take a private tour of the gardens of Palazzo Patrizi and delight in its variety of roses.
  • Visit the gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia with designs by Dan Pearson and Stuart Barfoot, considered one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens.
  • Experience fine dining overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean at The Cesar Restaurant, located within the opulent mansion of the late J. Paul Getty.


One marvels at the magic of Italy’s northern lakes, island gardens, hillside villages, medieval cities, galleries and churches, but to also experience so many private gardens, villas and castles, often with their delicious lunches, was an unsurpassed experience.  Colin, VIC.

A brilliantly organized tour and professional tour leaders meant the Italian Gardens Tour was unforgettable.  Liz, NZ.

Congratulations ASA on your expert organization of ‘Gardens of Italy’ …. This for me is an experience to treasure.  Robin, NZ.

23-day Cultural Garden Tour of Italy

Overnight Moltrasio (2 nights) • Stresa (2 nights) • Turin (4 nights) • Lucca (2 nights) • Florence (4 nights) • Siena (2 nights) • Perugia (1 night) • Viterbo (1 night) • Rome (4 nights)


The following itinerary describes a range of gardens, villas and palaces which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

Moltrasio - 2 nights

Day 1: Monday 27 April, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio
  • Introductory meeting
  • Light (2-course) Dinner, La Cascata restaurant

The ASA ‘designated’ flight is scheduled to arrive at Milan’s Malpensa airport in the morning of 29 April. Those arriving on this flight will be transferred by private coach to Moltrasio. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Grand Hotel Imperiale. Private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged for those arriving independently; please contact ASA for further information.

Grand Hotel Imperiale is situated on the shores of Lake Como with panoramic views of the Grigne Mountains. We shall meet in the evening for a brief introduction to the tour, followed by a light dinner at the hotel’s La Cascata restaurant. (Overnight Moltrasio) D

Day 2: Tuesday 28 April, Moltrasio – Tremezzo – Bellagio – Moltrasio
  • Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
  • Villa Melzi, Bellagio (optional)
  • Villa del Balbianello, Bellagio
  • Welcome Dinner, Imperialino restaurant

This morning we cruise across Lake Como to 18th-century Villa Carlotta, a garden with a huge botanical collection and a traditional Italian formal design, unlike most lake gardens that were heavily influenced by the more fluid layouts of English landscape gardening; it thus has a wide variety of architectural features – parterres, stairways, ponds, fountains, etc. In April and May Villa Carlotta offers a sea of multi-coloured azaleas shaped in high, rounded cushions alongside the garden paths.

During the lunch break there will be some time at leisure to visit Villa Melzi (optional).

This afternoon we visit Villa del Balbianello, an exquisite villa set in woods of pine, soaring cypress and oak with pollarded plane trees and manicured lawns and flowerbeds. Facing the promontory of Serbelloni, from the Lavedo point it boasts unparalleled views down the three branches of the lake. The first villa was built in 1540, but was later moved to a new site inland to protect it from flooding. Cardinal Durini erected a casino with a loggia in 1790, open to the sun and breezes; today it is trellised with Ficus pumila (creeping fig) and flanked by a library and music room.

This evening we meet in the hotel’s Imperialino restaurant for our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Moltrasio) BD

Stresa - 2 nights

Day 3: Wednesday 29 April, Moltrasio – Bisuschio – Casalzuigno – Stresa
  • Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, Bisuschio
  • Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, Casalzuigno

We depart Moltrasio to visit Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, located on a steep hillside in the village of Bisuschio. Its garden looks out upon sweeping views, with a glimpse of Lake Lugano. Founded in the 15th century, the villa took its present form in the 16th century. The Cicogna family, who inherited it in 1580, still owns this lovely villa. The formal gardens rise on 7 narrow terraces and adjacent to them is a small sunken garden with formal box parterres and patches of lawn. We tour the villa residence, which houses a fine antique collection. Above the villa is a great terrace with Renaissance grottoes offering shade in summer, and a magnificent water stair. Flowing water was an essential feature of Italian formal gardens, offering a cooling spectacle and a lively, burbling sound.

After lunchtime at leisure we visit Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, which is unusual for Lombardy because its measured stately design is laid out upon a steep slope. Parterres, terraces with stone balustrades and grand stairways flanking fountains rise to an octagonal clearing, or theatre, surrounded by a thick ring of cypresses and woods. The perspective rises further to the villa, set to one side in order not to interrupt the silvan view. We continue to our hotel located on the shores of Lake Maggiore. (Overnight Stresa) B

Day 4: Thursday 30 April, Stresa – Lake Maggiore – Lake Orta – Stresa
  • Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
  • Isola Madre, Lake Maggiore
  • Orta San Giulio & Isola San Giulio, Lake Orta

We take the ferry across Lake Maggiore to Count Carlo Borromeo’s Isola Bella (1632), one of Italy’s most extraordinary Baroque gardens. Located on an island off Stresa, it appears to float like a palatial barge, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow from the reflecting waters. It shares the island with the Borromeo palace and its adjacent village.

We also visit Isola Madre, with semi-tropical plantings amongst which white peacocks roam. In 1845, Flaubert wrote, “Isola Madre is the most sensual place that I have ever seen in the world”. It has a fine swamp cypress, citrus fruit trees, crape myrtle, hibiscus, leptospermum and acacias. The landscape woods have groves of native trees – aromatic cypress, bay and pine – interplanted with camphor, pepper trees and styrax. Its pathways are lined with magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas.

This afternoon we visit Lake Orta, to the west of Lake Maggiore, a tiny jewel surrounded by hills and mountains acting as a great natural theatre enveloping local towns and villages. The most beautiful of these is Orta San Giulio, whose town hall has a frescoed façade. Its narrow streets are lined with Rococo houses. We take a ferry to Isola San Giulio to visit the 12th-century Romanesque church whose pulpit is one of the outstanding masterpieces of medieval sculpture in northern Italy. (Overnight Stresa) B

Turin - 4 nights

Day 5: Friday 1 May, Stresa – Poirino – Turin
  • Tenuta Banna, Poirino (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)

This morning we make our way south from Stresa to Poirino, 30 kilometres south-east of Turin. After lunch at a local restaurant in Poirino, we make our way to nearby Tenuta Banna. This private estate is owned by Marchese and Marchesa Spinola and is home to the Spinola-Banna Foundation for Art. In the 1990s Paolo Pejrone, leading Italian landscape architect and host of our program on Day 8 of our tour, designed a modern garden around the property’s large farmhouse and adjoining church and castle. He created a series of enclosed gardens ‘organised like a Persian carpet’; they include a secret garden planted with wisterias and peonies, a potager, and a rose garden with an abundance of colour and variety. Following lunch, we will drive to Turin, Italy’s first capital city after unification and home to the House of Savoy.  (Overnight Turin) BL

Day 6: Saturday 2 May, Turin
  • Orientation walk of Turin, including guided visits to the Palazzo Reale, Cathedral & Palazzo Madama
  • Afternoon and evening at leisure

This morning we will enjoy a guided orientation walk of the city’s centre with a local guide. Our walk will include a visit to Turin’s Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), seat of the House of Savoy (1646-1859) and of Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy (1860-1865). This grand palace, a major essay in Italian Baroque and Rococo, has sumptuous decorations and furniture from all periods. We will also visit Turin’s Palazzo Madama, a medieval castle behind a Baroque façade, with a major art collection that includes Antonello da Messina’s Portrait of a Man. This afternoon and evening we will be at leisure to enjoy Turin. (Overnight Turin) B

Day 7: Sunday 3 May, Turin – Moncalieri – Turin
  • Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
  • Villa Silvio Pellico – including lunch (exclusive private visit)

Today we visit the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. Giovanni Agnelli was in 1899 one of the original founders of what became the Fiat motor company. The Agnelli family, ‘the Kennedys of Italy’, are also known for their ownership of Ferrari since 1969 and as majority owners of the Juventus Football Club. Donna Marella Agnelli, of the Italian noble house of Caracciolo, is a renowned style icon, garden designer, author and photographer, as well as art collector. The Pinacoteca, opened in 2002, displays 25 masterpieces from Giovanni and Marella Agnelli’s private art collection. We shall visit the gallery known as the ‘Scrigno’, or ‘treasure chest’, which houses twenty-three paintings and two sculptures, including works by Matisse, Balla, Severini, Modigliani, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Picasso, Renoir, Manet and Canova. The space itself is a work of art, having been designed by Renzo Piano inside Turin’s historic industrial complex of Lingotto.

Villa Silvio Pellico, a fine Neo-Gothic mansion (1780) with a Russell Page garden, arguably one of his three masterpieces. Page had gained an understanding of the Italian and French formal tradition of gardening from Edith Wharton and Geoffrey Jellicoe. On an ill-kempt hillside in the 1950s he created a fine terraced garden on two axes divided by pools; Page was particularly sensitive to the use of water in gardens. Symmetrical hedges create a series of ‘rooms’ of different designs, using diverse vegetation and ground patterns, as well as sculptures. The present owner, Raimonda Lanza di Trabia, daughter of the last Prince of Trabia (Sicily), and her husband Emanuele Gamna, will host us for lunch. (Overnight Turin) BL

Day 8: Monday 4 May, Turin – Villar Perosa – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin
  • Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
  • Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s private experimental garden (exclusive private visit with owner & designer Paolo Pejrone)
  • Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)

We are particularly privileged today to accompany Paolo Pejrone on two very special garden visits. This morning we visit the exquisite gardens of Casa Agnelli, set on a private estate which has been home to the Agnelli family since the early 1800s. In 1955 Marella Agnelli commissioned Russell Page and together they transformed the gardens. The swimming pool area was designed by renowned architect Gae Aulenti and other parts of the garden were developed by Paolo Pejrone. The grounds offer a range of styles: Italianate formal gardens; a water garden with interconnecting lakes; an English-style woodland walk, a romantic garden, sculpture gardens and more.

Paolo Pejrone will then accompany us on a visit to his own, very private garden, designed not so much for its aesthetics, but rather as a laboratory in which the master is constantly experimenting with new plantings. Set on a steep escarpment near a ruined medieval rampart from which ‘Bramafam’ takes its name, the garden and its owner’s discussions with you will give precious, unique insights into his ideas and practice.

We continue to Moncalieri to visit the private garden designed by Paolo Pejrone for Silvana and Alberto Peyrani. Pejrone surrounded their villa with extensive new gardens, including decorative orchards and a fine potager. We are very grateful that the Peyranis have graciously consented to allow us to explore their private domain. (Overnight Turin) B

Lucca - 2 nights

Day 9: Tuesday 5 May, Turin – Santa Margherita Ligure – La Cervara – Lucca
  • Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino (La Cervara)
  • Group Dinner at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant

We drive southeast along the grand Ligurian coast to the magnificent Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino. Located in a strategic position atop a rocky headland that overlooks the Tigullio Gulf, it was founded as a Benedictine monastery in 1361. The monks’ former vegetable garden was transformed into what is now the only monumental Italian formal garden in the Liguria region. It extends over two levels connected by arbors and steps. On the lower level, hedges of boxwood (buxus sempervirens) are trimmed into ornate stepped cones, an important example of topiary art. The hedges surround a 17th-century marble fountain in the form of a putto, whose underlying basin is tinged with pink water lilies in summer.

After visiting this grand garden, we continue to Lucca and check in to the Hotel Ilaria, which occupies the restored stables of the Villa Bottini inside the city walls. In the evening we dine together at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant, located near the hotel. (Overnight Lucca) BD

Day 10: Wednesday 6 May, Lucca
  • Orientation tour of Lucca incl. Cathedral of San Martino, San Michele, San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
  • Palazzo Pfanner
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Italian Opera Evening at the Church of San Giovanni

Lucca is one of the most beautiful of all Italian cities, with city walls graced by grand plantations of trees and one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. We visit the Cathedral of St. Martin, with a lovely Jacopo della Quercia tomb. The Church of San Michele has a spectacular façade made up of complex blind galleries with capricious sculptures of beasts. It was built in the ancient forum of the city; Lucca’s medieval street plan follows the original Roman plan. The oval Piazza del Mercato’s medieval palaces were built into the structure of Lucca’s Roman amphitheatre. San Frediano, meanwhile, has a distinctive façade mosaic and a unique baptismal font that was once a medieval fountain.

After lunch we visit the privately owned 17th-century Palazzo Pfanner, where parts of Portrait of a Lady were filmed (1996). The palace’s owner, Dario Pfanner, will introduce his palace and its Baroque garden, a fine example of an urban garden that includes various statues of Olympian deities and a fountain pond. Its elegant lemon house (limonaia) inflects a space defined by boxwood and laurel hedges. Bushes of peonies and hortensias, roses and potted geraniums gain shade from yews, pines, magnolias and an old camellia. Inside, the palace’s piano nobile (main reception room) features Pietro Paolo Scorsini frescoes (c.1720).

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to walk a section of Lucca’s 17th-century city walls, the best preserved in Italy. The Lucchesi planted trees atop these walls to form a promenade enlivened by small gardens and lawns. We attend an evening concert with a selection from Italian operas, including many by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), a native of Lucca, in the Church of San Giovanni. (Overnight Lucca) B

Florence - 4 nights

Day 11: Thursday 7 May, Lucca – Camigliano – Capannori – San Piero a Sieve – Florence
  • Villa Torrigiani, Camigliano
  • Lunch at a Tuscan osteria
  • Medici Castello del Trebbio, San Piero a Sieve

During the Renaissance, the wealthy merchant families of Tuscany built grand villas on the plains of Lucca. We visit 17th-century Villa Torrigiani, named after the camellia that was introduced to the gardens in the early 18th century. The garden’s Baroque layout, attributed to André Le Nôtre, features symmetrical reflecting pools in front of the villa. Most outstanding is the secret garden (Giardino di Flora), with regular beds, topiary and pools. The garden features 19th-century trees, magnificent magnolias, cypresses and umbrella pines. The 18th-century avenue of cypresses leading to the villa from the village of Borgonuovo reflects the past grandeur of estates in this region.

We eat a traditional Tuscan lunch at nearby osteria before continuing our journey eastward toward Castello il Trebbio in San Piero a Sieve.

“Set on a hilltop in the Apennines north of Florence, a few kilometres west of San Piero a Sieve, Castello del Trebbio is one of the oldest villas built by the Medici, who came from the Mugello and chose their native region for their first villas. The head of the Medici clan, Giovanni di Bicci, owned the property from the late 14th century, and upon his death in 1428, the villa was inherited by Cosimo the Elder, who commissioned Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to rebuild the original castle.

The walled garden set on two terraces is noteworthy as it was among the first of its kind to be designed for a villa. The upper terrace of the well-preserved garden, a veritable hortus conclusus, is decorated with a long pergola made up of a double row of columns and sandstone capitals in various styles (ionic and decorated with foliage motifs), which support a thick covering of vines. As can be seen in the lunette painted by Giusto Utens between 1599 and 1602, there was a second pergola (now lost) on the lower terrace, which retains the original layout of a vegetable garden with a pond, as well as planting designed by Michelozzo to satisfy not only defensive requirements, but also Cosimo’s spiritual desire for a contemplative life.” (The Medici Villas: Complete Guide by Isabella Lapi Ballerini & Mario Scalini).

In the late afternoon we arrive at our hotel in central Florence. (Overnight Florence) BL

Day 12: Friday 8 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence
  • Villa Medici in Fiesole
  • Villa Le Balze (to be confirmed)
  • Lunch at Fattoria di Maiano
  • Villa di Maiano & Gardens

Unlike the grand villa gardens we have visited near Lucca, Florence and its vicinity have a number of small intimate urban gardens that we visit today. Many of these offer glimpses of the city, a counterpart to the spectacular views afforded by their grander Florentine counterparts. Such views offer a reminder that Florentine villas were seen as retreats from this metropolitan powerhouse. We make an early morning visit to elegant Fiesole in the hills overlooking Florence where Boccaccio set his Decameron, model for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Boccaccio’s protagonists told stories to while away their days in a Fiesole villa in which they had escaped from the plague ravaging Florence. Our first visit is to the garden of 16th-century Villa Medici in Fiesole. The garden, showing Cecil Pinsent’s influence, is divided into three terraces with a limonaia. We shall then walk to neighbouring Villa Le Balze. Now a University of Georgetown study centre, it has a small formal garden and olive grove designed by Englishman Cecil Pinsent, with breathtaking views over Florence.

After some time to explore Fiesole’s town centre at leisure, we transfer a short distance by coach to nearby Fattoria di Maiano, where we shall partake in a a Tuscan lunch together. The Fattoria is the organic farm and olive grove of Villa di Maiano; here we shall indulge in local specialties such as cheeses, cold cuts, and risotto al Chianti.

The Villa di Maiano can count Queen Victoria among its guests; it has also provided the set for numerous films, including James Ivory’s A Room with a View and Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini. Among the villa’s past owners are members of the famous Sforza and Pazzi families. However, it was wealthy Englishman Sir John Temple Leader who, after acquiring the property in 1844, renovated the villa, its gardens and the surrounding structures. We’ll take a guided tour of the Villa, including a special visit to the first floor, and the gardens. (Overnight Florence) BL

Day 13: Saturday 9 May, Florence
  • Palazzo Corsini al Prato: Visits to the garden & palazzo; Refreshments
  • Afternoon at leisure

We begin our day with a visit to to the Giardino Corsini al Prato, a Florentine urban garden that illustrates the deep connection between nature, science and beauty in the Renaissance sensibility. Alessandro Acciaioli, a passionate 16th-century botanist, conceived the garden. Unable to finish his residence, he was forced to sell the property to Filippo di Lorenzo Corsini, who completed the Italian garden that remains unchanged to this day. Completely concealed from the street by the façade of the palazzo, this urban garden reveals pink and red rock roses, peonies, cherry trees and lavender along with elegant lemon urns and a central axis of solemn marble statues. After our tour of the gardens, Princess Giorgiana Corsini has kindly arranged for us a tour of her palace, followed by refreshments.

The afternoon is at leisure to explore Florence’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Florence) B

Day 14: Sunday 10 May, Florence
  • Chapel of the Magi, Palazzo Medici Riccardi
  • Museo di San Marco
  • Afternoon at leisure

We depart from the hotel on foot and make a visit to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to view Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the small Magi Chapel. The sumptuous procession, which includes representations of Medici family members, is set in an ideal Tuscan landscape, which forms a fascinating comparison to the gardens we visit and countryside through which we drive.

Our next visit is to the monastery of San Marco, where Dominican monks contemplated the faith in images by Fra Angelico. Here, Cosimo de’Medici had his own cell for religious retreats, and commissioned Michelozzo to design the monks’ cloister and the reading library for his manuscripts. The monastery holds numerous artistic treasures, including a Last Supper by Ghirlandaio in the refectory, and Fra Angelico’s famous Annunciation.

We have another afternoon at leisure to enjoy Florence. (Overnight Florence) B

Siena - 2 nights

Day 15: Monday 11 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena
  • Villa Gamberaia, Settignano
  • Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)

We drive to Siena via two famous Tuscan villas. At Settignano we visit the Villa Gamberaia, with arguably the most famous of Florentine villa gardens. The Capponi family initiated the present garden in 1718. In 1896, Princess Ghika of Serbia created the main water parterres in front of the villa. The Marchi family has recently restored the garden. It features magnificent topiary, two fine grottoes, and wonderful old cypresses and pines. By special arrangement, we also tour the interiors of the villa which combines interesting architectural features of both an urban palazzo and suburban villa.

This afternoon we cross to the opposite side of the Sienese hills to the enchanting Villa Geggiano. Here, centuries-old cypress, potted lemons and clipped box hedges adorn a garden boasting a unique ‘greenery theatre’, late Baroque sculptures, a kitchen garden with topiary art and a semi-circular fishpond that forms an elegant terrace overlooking Siena. The villa itself contains original 13th-century furnishings. A small chapel faces the garden. Lunch features crostini with porcini mushrooms and truffles, pasta, various locally cured meats and Pecorino cheeses, followed by plum jam tart, all washed down with Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico, mineral water and coffee.

In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena, a villa surrounded by gardens. (Overnight Siena) BL

Day 16: Tuesday 12 May, Siena
  • Orientation tour of Siena, including Palazzo Pubblico, Cathedral & Museum
  • Afternoon at leisure

Siena is the quintessential medieval city. We explore Lorenzetti’s fascinating paintings of Good and Bad Government in the Civic Museum, located in the Palazzo Pubblico, and Duccio’s masterpiece, the Maestà, in the Cathedral Museum. We examine Nicola and Giovanni Pisano’s great pulpit in Siena Cathedral. We also visit medieval quarters (contrade) dominated by palaces still occupied by the families who built them. The contrade compete in the famous palio horse race twice a year. Protected by the Virgin Mary, Siena is a city of Trinitarian symbolism. Built on three ridges, it has three major sectors (terzi) that each elected three members of the city council, and interpreted its very architectural fabric in such symbolic terms. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Siena’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Siena) B

Perugia - 1 night

Day 17: Wednesday 13 May, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Castel del Piano Umbro – Perugia
  • Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment; to be confirmed)
  • Private gardens of Villa Aureli, Castel del Piano Umbro
  • Orientation Walk, Perugia, including Cathedral & Fontana Maggiore

We drive south to the Renaissance Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. Origo’s two autobiographies, Images and Shadows and War in Val d’Orcia, vividly describe life on the estate in the mid-20th century. La Foce overlooks the Orcia valley and Amiata Mountains, maintaining a distinctive harmony between its spectacular landscape setting and the formal style of surrounding gardens. Terraces with cherries, pines, cypress and wild herbs gently climb its hillside setting. Now a centre for cultural and artistic activities, it hosts the distinguished Incontri chamber annual summer music festival in the Castelluccio, a medieval castle on the property.

Count Sperello di Serego Alighieri, a descendent of Dante, will host us for a light lunch and show us his lovely Villa Aureli. Shaded by lime trees and oaks and decorated with many late antique vases containing citrus trees, the villa dates to the middle of the 18th century, when a Perugian nobleman and artist, Count Sperello Aureli, transformed a 16th-century tower into his country residence. Of particular note is the orangery, whose high roof is reminiscent of the hull of an upturned ship.

We continue to Perugia for a gentle orientation walk to include its Cathedral and Fontana Maggiore. We spend the night in the luxury Hotel Brufani Palace, located on a hilltop within Perugia’s historic core. (Overnight Perugia) BL

Viterbo - 1 night

Day 18: Thursday 14 May, Perugia – Bagnaia – Viterbo
  • Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, Perugia
  • Villa Lante, Bagnaia

We begin by viewing masterpieces, including works by Perugino, in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria before departing Perugia to visit the great Villa Lante and its garden. Villa Lante is the consummate example of Italian Mannerist garden design. Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s exemplary essay in fine scale and proportion centres on a fountain and water parterre. Vignola was influenced by the Vatican gardens, the Villa d’Este, Hadrian’s marine theatre and the Boboli Gardens (Florence). Its theme, humanity’s descent from the Golden Age, is based upon Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Water flows from the Grotto of the Deluge at the summit down a stepped cascade and through a channel at the centre of a vast stone table used for banquets, inspired by Pliny’s description of an imperial garden table using water to cool wine and fruit. In the late afternoon, we drive a short distance to our hotel located in the countryside outside Viterbo. (Overnight Viterbo) BD

Rome - 4 nights

Day 19: Friday 15 May, Viterbo – Calcata – Vignanello – Rome
  • Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi, Calcata (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
  • Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello

This morning we visit the private garden of distinguished architect and scholar Paolo Portoghesi. The garden reinterprets Baroque elements and Borrominian forms, and fuses geometry with nature to produce a garden which is both spectacularly modern and at the same time, reverent toward the traditions upon which it draws.

Castello Ruspoli occupies the site of a mid-9th century Benedictine convent later converted to a military stronghold. Ortensia Baglioni transformed it into a villa, designed by the great architects Sangallo and Vignola, and succeeding generations created one of Italy’s most beautiful parterres, composed of hedges of bay, laurel and box, which articulate a vast rectangular space. The Princess Ruspoli today maintains the gardens. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 20: Saturday 16 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome
  • Giardini di Ninfa
  • Private Gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia (to be confirmed)

We depart this morning at approximately 8.00am for the Giardini di Ninfa. The magnificent gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome, are some of the most remarkable in all of Italy. Today, their gates will open for a special private visit for our group. The town of Ninfa is but a memory of a once prosperous medieval commune owned by the Caetani family since the mid-13th century. In the early 20th century the family began to regenerate its ruins, taking advantage of a microclimate greened by rich spring water. Thousands of species were introduced from all over the world under the guidance of botanical experts. Lelia Caetani, the last of her ancient family, died in 1977 and bequeathed her property to the Caetani Foundation, which maintains the wonderfully atmospheric gardens. Today plants weave themselves over ruined towers, ancient archways and churches, while ducks and swans glide on the castle’s moat. Highlights include a walled garden, small orchard and diverse plantings in which roses, banana trees and maples thrive together in this unique and beautiful landscape.

Nearby, we enjoy a picnic lunch and visit the dreamy gardens of Torrecchia, one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens. Nestled against the crumbling ruins of a medieval village and castle, perched on a volcanic hilltop just south of Rome, they command spectacular views of the unspoilt 1500-acre estate. Owned by Carlo Caracciolo (the late owner of the Italian newspaper L’Espresso) and Violante Visconti, the gardens were originally designed by Lauro Marchetti, the current curator of the Giardini di Ninfa, and further developed by the English garden designer Dan Pearson and later by Stuart Barfoot. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 21: Sunday 17 May, Rome – Tivoli – Rome
  • Villa d’Este, Tivoli
  • Time at leisure in Rome

Set among the hanging cliffs of the Valle Gaudente, the Villa d’Este and its surrounding gardens and waterworks has undergone a series of innovative extensions in layout and decoration, including those of Bernini in the late 17th century. This UNESCO world heritage site boasts an impressive concentration of nymphaea, grottoes and fountains, including the famous hydraulic Organ Fountain that still operates. The Villa d’Este’s use of water and music became the definitive model for Mannerist and Baroque gardens across Europe.

After time at leisure for lunch in Tivoli, we return to Rome, arriving at approximately 3.00pm. The rest of the afternoon and the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 22: Monday 18 May, Rome – Castel Giuliano – Ladispoli – Rome
  • Palazzo Patrizi, Castel Giuliano (exclusive private visit)
  • Farewell Lunch at The Cesar Restaurant, La Posta Vecchia Hotel, home of the late J. Paul Getty

The estate of Castel Giuliano, surrounded by a beautiful century-old park, occupies the site of an Etruscan and Roman settlement at the foot of the Tolfa Mountains. The Patrizi family has owned it since 1546 and its present owners have restored its ancient buildings and park to their former splendour. On its wide, gently sloping turf terraces, pines, cluster oaks, and century-old Lebanon cedars tower above sweet-scented herbs and flower-laden bushes, contrasting unruly nature with human interventions. The park has numerous Etruscan tombs and ruins of Roman walls covered in ferns and lichen. Truly unique, it is one of Italy’s most important private rose gardens; in May it hosts the famous ‘Festival of the Roses’. Climbing roses soften the austere lines of the ancient castle walls, which are surrounded by combinations of shrubbery and foxglove, myrtle and pale blue ceanothus.

We finish our tour with a special dining experience at The Cesar restaurant. With a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, The Cesar is the restaurant of luxury hotel La Posta Vecchia. The dishes, designed by renowned chef Antonio Magliulo, are traditional Italian style with a contemporary twist. They are prepared with fresh local ingredients, including produce from the property’s organic garden. The opulent villa is surrounded by manicured gardens. It was bought by J. Paul Getty in the 1960s and sumptuously restored. Built in the 17th century to house visitors to the neighbouring Odescalchi Castle, the villa remained in a state of disrepair for decades until Getty purchased it and restored it to its former glory. During excavations for a swimming pool, the foundations of an ancient Roman villa – said to be the weekend retreat of Julius Caesar – were discovered, and Getty spared no expense in preserving the remains. On the lower level of the villa is a museum in which the mosaic floors, walls, pottery and first-century artefacts are on display. We make a short visit to the museum and say our farewells as we return to Rome. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 23: Tuesday 19 May, Depart Rome
  • Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

The tour ends in Rome. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B


23-day Cultural Garden Tour of Italy

All hotels are rated 3-, 4- or 5-star locally and are comfortable and conveniently situated. All rooms have en suite bathroom.

  • Moltrasio (2 nights): 4-star Grand Hotel Imperiale – built in the late Art Nouveau style, overlooking Lake Como and surrounded by private gardens.
  • Stresa (2 nights): 4-star Hotel La Palma – located in the Stresa town centre close to many shops, restaurants, cafés. Hotel La Palma is situated directly across the road from the lake and has views over Lake Maggiore.
  • Turin (4 nights): 4-star Townhouse 70 Hotel – a modern boutique hotel located in the heart of the historic centre.
  • Lucca (2 nights): 4-star Hotel Ilaria – located within the walls of the old city, close to the cathedral. It is flanked by the centuries-old garden of the Villa Bottini – it occupies the villa’s restored stables – and the medieval city gate, Porta San Gervasio.
  • Florence (4 nights): 4-star Grand Hotel Adriatico – a modern hotel located between the Santa Maria Novella Square and the Arno River and within walking distance of all major monuments & museums.
  • Siena (2 nights): 4-star Hotel Garden – housed in a villa perched on a hill with vineyards and olive groves overlooking Siena. It stands at the end of a park of ilex trees, flower beds and shrubs.
  • Perugia (1 night): 5-star Hotel Brufani Palace – located on a hilltop within the historical centre of Perugia and walking distance from the main historical sites.
  • Viterbo (1 night): 4-star Alla Corte delle Terme Exclusive Resort – a modern resort hotel located in the countryside near Viterbo.
  • Rome (4 nights): 3-star Albergo Santa Chiara – chosen for its location close to the Pantheon, in the historic centre of Rome.

Note: hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation will be a double/twin room for single occupancy, except in Rome, where a Single Superior room (with French bed) will be provided. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

Making a Tentative Reservation before the tour price has been published


Some ASA tours fill almost immediately. Don’t miss out! You can register your ‘Intention to Travel’ by completing this application and returning this to ASA with a AUD $100.00 per person deposit. Once the tour price has been published, the itinerary and ASA Reservation Application Form will be sent to you. From the time you receive the itinerary you will have two weeks to either:

  • Send us a completed ASA Reservation Application Form together with an additional deposit of AUD $400.00 per person. On receipt of this Reservation Application and deposit, ASA will process your booking and if approved, send you a tour confirmation. At this time your deposit of AUD $500.00 is subject to the tour’s Booking Conditions.


  • CANCEL your Intention to Travel in writing. ASA will refund your AUD $100.00 per person deposit, less a $33.00 service fee (including GST).
Participation Criteria

To participate in an ASA tour, you must be reasonably fit, in good health and able to participate in all activities without assistance from Tour Leaders or other tour members. If you require assistance, a fit and able travel companion must undertake to accompany and assist you with all tasks for the duration of the whole tour. ASA’s ability to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your specific needs, your health and safety and the health and safety of other tour members, is of paramount importance to us. For this reason the ASA Reservation Application includes a Medical Information section. As a general guideline, you must be able to accomplish each of these activities without assistance or support:

  • walk and stand unassisted for at least 2-3 hours a day in hot, humid conditions
  • walk confidently on and over uneven surfaces
  • climb at least 3 flights of stairs
  • embark and disembark from ferries, buses and trains
  • walk up and down steep slopes
  • walk at a steady pace and no less than 1km every 15-20 minutes
  • organise, manage and carry your own luggage
  • follow and remember tour instructions
  • meet punctually at designated times and places
  • administer your own medication
Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation will be a double/twin room for single occupancy, except in Rome, where a Single Superior room (with French bed) will be provided. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 23-day Cultural Garden Tour of Italy involves:

  • Moderate walking and standing during site visits; walking tours may include steep slopes, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, visits to hill-top towns and uneven ground during garden visits.
  • Moderate travel by air-conditioned coach.
  • Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites
  • The use of audio headsets, which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
  • 3- to 5-star hotels with eight hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
  • Excursions by ferry in the northern Italian Lakes District.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers:

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $TBA Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 July 2019

AUD $TBA Land Content Only

AUD $TBA Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3- and 4-star hotels (5-star in Perugia)
  • Breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals indicated in the tour itinerary, where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach; ferry/boat excursions in the Lakes District
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Light refreshments as indicated in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals.
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Milan, Rome-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to canel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

Interested in this tour?
Take the next step

Make an Enquiry now

or alternatively Download PDF Reservation Application

Discover our related articles and events before you take your journey