I love gardens. Some of my strongest travel memories include gardens that evoke specific times and places. I remember vividly a small herb garden in Uzes, France, a coastal garden in Maine, the unique Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon, and the incomparable gardens of Villa Balbianello at Lake Como in northern Italy.
But my absolute favorite garden memories come from Lucca and the gardens of Palazzo Pfanner.
The palazzo, which dates from the mid-1600s, has a large entry courtyard and a remarkable staircase, beyond which lie the gardens.
It amazes me to know that members of the Pfanner family, who have owned the property since the mid 1800s, still have apartments in the palazzo. Imagine living within such beauty! Imagine too that at one time (around 1900) the family ran a brewery and beer garden here.
I've been fortunate to experience the garden in the three seasons it is open - spring, summer and fall (it's closed to visitors in winter). Each season has its own flavor as plants bud, bloom, set fruit, mature, and fade.
In spring, the lemon trees blossom in their terracotta pots and are full of mature fruit. Irises poke up around the fountain, the giant magnolia tree blooms, and the smallest of buds appear on rows of hydrangea (called hortensia in Italian).
In summer, roses and peonies dazzle and pots of geraniums flower. The summer hydrangeas are spectacular with huge flower heads in pinks, blues, and purples.
In fall, the hydrangeas begin to fade but are still beautiful, even into late September/early October. The lemon trees in fall are full of small, green fruit. The vines begin to change color and there are still some roses in bloom.
The fall weather is ideal for sitting in the garden, a perfect season for reading or daydreaming in this peaceful place.
The limonaia in fall usually stands empty, waiting for the arrival of the potted lemon trees to winter over. This fall there was an art exhibit in the limonaia, which gave me the chance to walk through the low brick and stone building with its graceful arched, green windows.
Some things in the garden remain constant - the green of the boxwood and laurel hedges, the tall bamboo mini-forest, the vine covered walls of old brick, and the statues representing the four seasons and Olympic gods.
Most constant of all is the fountain, with its large octagonal basin, dramatic statuary, and seasonal flowers. This is the centerpiece of the garden; its sound infuses the space with a sense of calm and timelessness.
For garden lovers this is a "can't miss" experience in Lucca. The palazzo and garden can be seen from le mura (the walls) but are best experienced by entering the garden itself (tickets are 4.50 euro for the garden, 6 euro for the garden and palazzo). Quando sono nel giardino di Palazzo Pfanner, sono contenta (when I'm in the garden of Palazzo Pfanner, I'm happy). -post by JMB
Contact info: Palazzo Pfanner, Via degli Asili 33. Lucca, Italy. Hours: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. April - November.