The Garden of Ninfa: Italian Eden

To continue the overview of perfect destinations for a day-trip from Rome, I can’t but mention this earthly paradise the Garden of Ninfa.

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Situated in the small town of Cisterna di Latina immersed in the Lazio countryside, it is a perfect place for a romantic summer escape from the city to enjoy the nature at its best with dozens of flowers in blossom, hundreds of trees projecting their shadows on the green of the grass, the calm and the fury of the water, the sweet bird singing.

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The medieval town of Ninfa was born from an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the mythological creatures called nymphs. A nymph, both in Greek and Latin mythology, is a minor deity, a divine spirit that animates nature and is usually represented as a young maiden who loves dancing and singing and is tied to a particular place or location.

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The whole life of Ninfa was largely dependant on its springs born at the foot of the Lepini Hills, against the background of which the town grew up. The presence of abundant water in the area and the peculiarities of the territory brought about frequent floods and caused epidemics of malaria. To solve the persistent problem, a water dam was constructed becoming the symbol of the engineering progress of the epoch and granting Ninfa the necessary power to bring into motion town’s mills, olive presses and other machinery securing in this way the growing prosperity of the settlement that at the beginning of the 11th century received the status of a small town.

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But the fate had a very different scenario in store for Ninfa. In the 14th century the town suffered numerous papal wars and the disputes between the influential families of the region that caused its destruction and, as a consequence, the exodus of its population. The town got abandoned and a centuries-long period of decay started and lasted till as late as the 20th century.

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Don Gelasio Caetani, one of the Sermoneta Dukes, came here to give Ninfa its second life. An accurate research of the town’s history started, its ruins underwent careful restoration and a typical Anglo-Saxon garden of incomparable beauty was founded to revive the glory of the medieval town preserving, at the same time, its original, unique and mysterious appeal. Ninfa made history, architecture and art come together and co-exist in harmony enclosed within its ruins and its magnificent garden boasting a rare eco-system.

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The Garden of Ninfa is a truly international collection of plants. On a hot summer day there’s nothing like a slow walk among its trees and flowers: Japanese maples, roses, ornamental cherries, aquatic Iris, tropical plants such as avocado and banana, bamboo. There’s nothing like listening to the lazy silence of the day occasionally interrupted by the buzz of numerous insects and the tuneful whispers of water.

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As many unique places around the world, being also a private property and part of the Caetani Foundation, the Garden of Ninfa offers a limited access to its treasures. The doors of the park open only a very few times during the year and it is strictly necessary to plan the visit in advance hoping the weather will assist you. For more information on the opening days and conditions for a visit refer to the official page of the site.

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Some hints for the trip:

  1. If you plan to visit Ninfa in summer, you might need a hat and some sunscreen.
  2. The most convenient way to reach Ninfa from Rome is by car. Take into consideration that a one-way trip might take up to 2 hours.
  3. If you have some time left after visiting the garden, you could also move a bit further till you reach the town of Sermoneta to have a walk along its medieval streets.
  4. If you plan a longer stay in the area, you could take into consideration spending some time, even days, exploring the area of the Roman Castles, a group of small Roman comunes of the Alban Hills.
  5. The garden of Ninfa is quite close to the Lazio seaside towns of Anzio (approximately 50 minutes by car), Nettuno (approximately 45 minutes by car), Sabaudia (approximately 55 minutes by car) and San Felice Circeo (approximately 1 hour by car).

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And if you think no experience is worth such attention to detail in arranging it, I assure you will change your mind as early as you enter this magical garden and start admiring its striking beauty able to take one’s breath away, allowing to forget any trouble and worry of the external world and one’s everyday life.

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Photos credit: Machs Gut (c)

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