Gardens of Ninfa – Doganella di Ninfa, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Gardens of Ninfa

Doganella di Ninfa, Italy

Ruins of a 10th century church tucked away deep in a botanical garden. 


What now stands as an enchanting English garden in the Roman countryside was once a small agricultural town founded under the Roman Empire, passed through the ages from Pope Pasquale II in the 12th century to the Frangipane family and later to the Colonna family in 1293.

What you see today was started in 1921 by Gelasio Caetani and his mother Ada Wilbraham, who had already founded a botanical garden in Fogliano and who would bring diverse species back to this garden from her various travels. Its particular, favorable climate – humid and consistent – is regulated by the river Ninfa and the nearby cliffs, which trap low-lying fog and cause frequent rain showers.

Among the various treasures to be found in the gardens are the ruins of a 10th-century church (Santa Maria Maggiore) complete with 12th-century frescos, a picturesque river complete with crystal-clear water and ancient bridges, and a plethora of plants from around the globe. Among the vegetal varietals you can find an American walnut tree, a number of decorative apple trees, red Japanese maples, yucca, yellow begonias, orchids, cherry trees, lavender pathways, Himalayan and Mexican pines and miniature pomegranates.

Whether you are a botanist, bio-diversity expert or Roman/medieval history buff, these gardens will surely excite the inner dreamer in you, bringing the English fascination for ruins and gardens to life.

Visits are allowed only with a tour guide. Tours depart every 10 minutes and are guaranteed even in case of fog and/or rain.

Know Before You Go

The Gardens are only open April through November.

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April 3, 2013

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