The local lack of water and impoverished soil prompted the garden to join a participatory project with a network of permaculturists, experimentally creating three food forests of Mediterranean species through dryland farming, in which soil regeneration and water conservation techniques combine with the conservation of fig and pomegranate agricultural biodiversity.

The history of this garden dates back to around 1610, when Zanobi di Andrea Lapi commissioned the building. It was enlarged in the 18th century by its new owners, the Capponi family, who also redesigned the garden layout. After several decades of abandonment, in 1896 the complex was purchased by Princess Jeanne Catherine Ghyka. An artist of great sensibility, she created a garden characterized by a highly original water parterre, consisting of four rectangular pools bordered by boxwood hedges and ending in a hemicycle of cypress trees shaped into an arch. Villa Gamberaia became one of Italy’s most iconic gardens, the handiwork of a woman who, to this day, remains shrouded in an aura of mystery. She was assisted by gardener Martino Porcinai, father of Pietro, who became Italy’s pre-eminent 20th-century landscape architect. The gate at the exedra-shaped entrance on Via del Rossellino opens onto a boulevard of cypresses, forming a visual corridor that leads the visitor’s gaze towards the villa. Two arches abutting the house connect the first floor to the chapel. A long, straight “bowling-green” lawn ends to the north in a nymphaeum, and to the south with broad views out over the Arno valley, with access to the Cabinet de Rocaille, an extraordinary baroque invention of scenographic staircases connecting the selvatico and “lemon house”, which during wintertime houses a major collection of citrus fruits.


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Gardens of the twentieth century

A Florentine architect and landscape architect, he is the son of Martino, who was the gardener of Gamberaia from 1902 to 1916. He completed his apprenticeship abroad and in nurseries (Martino Bianchi’s in Pistoia), coming into contact with the great masters of garden architecture.


Of Romanian origin, daughter of Colonel Peter Keshko and Princess Pulchérie Stuzdza, Catherine is a prominent figure not only because of her family origins (she was the sister of Queen Natalia of Serbia) but also because of the cultural and artistic environment she loves to frequent.