The south of Italy is a blue canvas for a rainbow of wonderful flora and fauna and nowhere is this more magnificent than in the magical gardens of Naples. Now, Naples is more than just a city. It is a large province stretching from the city of Naples’ border in the north all the way to the fairytale Amalfi Coast, including the islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida. So where do we begin? At my favorites, of course!
1. Poseidon Gardens & Thermal Baths (V. Giovanni Mazzella, 87, Forio, Ischia) – Hands down this is my absolute favorite garden in Naples because it’s like entering the yellow brick road to Oz. Babbling thermal streams line floral footpaths as you walk under pergolas draped in bougainvillea leading to pristine sandy beaches. The sandy beaches alone are a delight in this part of Italy since so many are built of volcanic rock rather than comfy, powdery sand.
2. Villa Cimbrone (V. Santa Chiara, 26, Ravello, Amalfi Coast) – This is perhaps my favorite of the two lovely gardens in Ravello. It’s not easy to get to but so worth the effort. Since it sits atop the highest point along the Amalfi Coast, there’s a long snaking road up the cliff which is much better done in a personal car rather than a tour bus. Once at the top, the views are breathtaking. On a hot, sunny day, a tiered garden offers shade and the ultimate photo ops, especially along the Infinity Terrace where you feel as though you can float to the edge of the world. Step onto a glass-floored outpost and see straight to the sea below, if you dare.
3. Villa Rufolo (Piazza Duomo, Ravello, Amalfi Coast) – A villa has been on this spot since the 11th century but the beauty seen in its present form dates from Victorian times when a Scottish nobleman and an Italian artisan joined forces to restore and rebuild the Moorish palace which sits on this spot today. The colorful gardens come alive in spring when the floral mosaics are scented with jasmine and wisteria. They offer the perfect picture-taking spot, complete with church dome below.
4. La Mortella (V. Francesco Calise, 39, Forio, Ischia) – How can you not love a garden which sits on a volcanic island, offering waterfalls, sculpture, woodland creatures and more? Mortella means myrtle in Italian, the little purple flower is just one of hundreds of species in this lush paradise. The gardens are generally open to the public from the last weekend in March to the first weekend in November and summer nights bring the lyrical joy of classical music concerts.
5. Gardens of Augustus (V. Matteotti, Capri) – These terraced landscapes were once the personal playground of German industrialist Friedrich Krupp. The greenery is dotted with colorful dahlias and geraniums and highlighted with statues of gods and goddesses, adding to the romantic spot. It offers panoramic views of Capri stretching from the Faraglioni to Mount Solaro. And if you’re in great shape or looking for a daily workout, hike the circuitous Via Krupp from the top to the bottom. I chose to while away some time just sitting at the cliff top!