Tour Italian-Inspired Gardens in America

Take a virtual tour of these formal gardens for design and landscaping ideas.

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Biltmore Company

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Biltmore Company

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Biltmore Company

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.cummer.org, photo by Amber Sesnick

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.cummer.org, photo by Amber Sesnick

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.cummer.org, photo by Amber Sesnick

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.cummer.org, photo by Amber Sesnick

Photo By: Image courtesy of www.cummer.org, photo by Amber Sesnick

Photo By: Image courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Photo By: Image courtesy of Longwood Gardens

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Mount, Lenox, Mass., photo by John Seakwood

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Mount, Lenox, Mass., photo by John Seakwood

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Mount, Lenox, Mass., photo by John Seakwood

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Mount, Lenox, Mass., photo by John Seakwood

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Mount, Lenox, Mass., photo by John Seakwood

Photo By: Image courtesy of The Mount, Lenox, Mass., photo by Kevin Sprague

Photo By: Image courtesy of F. W. Vanderbilt Garden Association

Photo By: Image courtesy of F. W. Vanderbilt Garden Association

Photo By: Image courtesy of F. W. Vanderbilt Garden Association

Photo By: Image courtesy of F. W. Vanderbilt Garden Association

Photo By: Image courtesy of F. W. Vanderbilt Garden Association

Photo By: Image courtesy of Charles Allis and Villa Terrace Art Museums, photo by Emily Porter

Photo By: Image courtesy of Charles Allis & Villa Terrace Art Museums, photo by Emily Porter

Photo By: Image courtesy of Cleveland Cultural Gardens, photo by Brent Durken

Photo By: Image courtesy of Cleveland Cultural Gardens, photo by Brent Durken

Photo By: Image courtesy of Cleveland Cultural Gardens, photo by Brent Durken

Water Lily Fantasia

Located adjacent to the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina is the estate’s Italian Garden with its three formal water gardens which are unique for their varieties of water lilies.

Frederick Law Olmsted's Jewel

The Italian Garden of the Biltmore estate has remained true to the original design first created for George and Edith Vanderbilt by famous architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late nineteenth century. Late summer is considered the best time to see the garden at the height of its beauty with the tropical water lilies a particular favorite among visitors. 

From Canna Lilies to Water Snowflakes

While the elegant statuary and various varieties of water lilies are key features of the Italian Garden at the Biltmore House, the three pools also include such distinctive plants as lotus, Victoria water platters, canna lilies, papyrus, water snowflakes and purple leaf rice.

Where to Find Italy in Jacksonville, Florida

The Italian Garden at The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens was designed in the early 1930s by Ellen Biddle Shipman, and based on the design of the Villa Gamberaia in Tuscany. It was initially conceived as a showcase for Ninah Cummer’s large collection of Italian marble garden ornaments and hundreds of azaleas.

Immaculate Sightlines

The Cummer’s Italian Garden is part of 2.5 acres of formal garden space along the St. Johns River that has been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. The arbors, antique ornaments, fountains, sculptures and other decorative features are part of the Mediterranean ambiance.  

Reflecting Pools

The Italian Garden features two long reflecting pools bordered by Shipman’s signature flower borders, as well as a ficus-covered gloriette, a traditional folly and a lion motif. The famous water gardens at the Villa Gamberaia in Tuscany were an inspiration for the design. 

A Place for Contemplation

At 2.5 acres, the winding paths of these Gardens are ideal for quiet contemplation or family exploration, and have been equipped with interactive and audio tours. The gardens were created in the early 1900s by Arthur Cummer and his brother, Waldo, who came from one of Jacksonville’s most prominent families. 

Three-Tiered Fountain

The presence of water is an important part of traditional Italian gardens and is integrated into The Cummer’s Italian Garden with the inclusion of the three-tiered fountain shipped by boat to the United States from Italy.

Photogenic Fountains

Comprising over 1,077 acres in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Longwood Gardens was the creation of industrialist Pierre S. du Pont who laid out his first garden in 1907 with a 600 foot long Flower Garden Walk featuring a fountain and pool in the center. In 1927, he debuted the Italian Water Garden (pictured here) which continues to be one of Longwood Gardens’ most popular attractions.

A Different Kind of Water Ballet

Pierre S. du Pont’s love of water and fountains is embodied in the Italian Water Garden at Longwood Gardens where green glass, blue-tiled fountains and sparkling water create a serene atmosphere. From mid-April through mid-October, visitors can enjoy the Festival of Fountains until dusk on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts

Designed and built by author Edith Wharton in 1902, The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts includes Wharton’s gracious main house and expansive terrace as well as three acres of formal gardens surrounded by extensive woodlands with the Italian walled garden (pictured) a major focal point.  

Capturing the Essence of an Italian Garden

Generally considered Wharton’s first published travel book, Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904) displays the author’s knowledge and love of the subject, especially during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. For her Italian walled garden at The Mount, Wharton wanted to capture the essence of “the ineffable Italian garden-magic” through a sense of design and layout, not slavish imitation. 

A Sensation in Any Season

Author Edith Wharton had very specific ideas about garden design and for her Italian walled garden, she wrote “The Italian garden does not exist for its flowers; its flowers exist for it.” She turned her three acre estate into individual garden rooms that blended naturally into the landscape and achieved “a charm independent of the seasons.”

Edith Wharton's Secret Hideaway

The Italian walled garden at The Mount, author Edith Wharton’s estate, is also known as giardino segreto (secret garden) and was a peaceful retreat for the writer as it blended into its natural surroundings in the Berkshires.

The Garden of Mirth

It is said that Edith Wharton created her Italian garden from the royalties on her novel The House of Mirth.  She would later write, “Decidedly I’m a better landscape gardener than novelist and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth.”

Timeless Beauty

This early morning photography of the Italian walled garden at The Mount captures the timeless beauty of Edith Wharton’s estate.

A Masterpiece from The Gilded Age

The landscapes and gardens of the F.W. Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, New York provide a glimpse of a socially prominent New Yorker’s estate during the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. Among the highlights are the Perennial Garden (pictured) which is in the tradition of an Italian garden with statues, central walks, formally clipped hedges and water features.

Flowers With a Brick Arbor Backdrop

The Italian style design of the Perennial Garden at the Vanderbilt Estate is distinguished by a sunken reflecting pool (in the background) framed by curved brick walls and arbors. The white Italian marble statue of a semi-nude nymph at the center is affectionately known as “Barefoot Kate.”

Italian Symmetry

The central walkways and overall symmetry of the Perennial Garden reflects the Italian garden influence of the original design by Charles Platt and James Greenleaf who consulted with Frederick Vanderbilt over the creation of the gardens from 1897 through 1904. 

Canvas of Color

A stroll through the Perennial Garden at the F. W. Vanderbilt Historic Site during the spring, summer and fall offers visitors an ever changing canvas of color with garden beds designed to mirror each other in the tradition of a formal Italian garden.

The Cherry Tree Walk

Located on the third tier of the gardens on the Vanderbilt estate, the Cherry Tree Walk serves as the formal entrance into the garden with its flower borders and ornamental cherry trees. Developed in 1913 by designer Robert Cridland, the Cherry Tree Walk departed from the original Italian style design to create a distinctly different identity of its own. 

Scaletta D'Aqua

Situated on the banks of Lake Michigan,  the Renaissance Garden at Villa Terrace in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is modeled on a 16th century Tuscan garden landscape using ornamental plants that are suitable for a Wisconsin climate. The Scaletta D’Aqua, a water stairway, can be seen at the top and flows down past three terraces of flowering crabapple trees to a small fish pond.

A Mediterranean Courtyard in Wisconsin

In the courtyard of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, visitors are greeted by a statue of the messenger god Hermes that tops the central fountain. The statue is a 17th century Italian sculpture with some fragments around the base from a 1st century Roman sculpture.

In the Spirit of the Renaissance

This is the main entrance to the Italian Cultural Garden in Cleveland, Ohio, which first opened on October 12, 1930 in celebration of Columbus Day and was conceived in the spirit of the Renaissance. Bordered by salvia, catsmint, roses and other plants, the walkway leads to a circular marble fountain modeled after one in Villa Medici in Rome. 

Piazza Perfecto

One of the highlights of the Italian Cultural Garden is the magnificent lower level piazza featuring a double shell fountain set into 30 foot high masonry walls with carvings of six Italian cultural figures.

Dante in the Garden

A recent addition to the Italian Cultural Garden is this bronze sculpture of the Italian medieval poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), designed by Cleveland artist Sandro Bonaiuto, who pays tribute to this pivotal figure in Italian history, language and culture with ornamental details of classic symbolism.