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Explore the huge artistic and cultural heritage of Italy discovering its treasures. visit extraordinary churches, museums, and art galleries. From Renaissance masters to contemporary artists, some of the most beautiful art in the world can be seen in museums in Italy. Enjoy a getaway or holiday in the Made in Italy culture.  

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Art & Culture

Villa Reale in Marlia

The gardens of the Villa Reale in Marlia, pure delight The park of the Villa Reale in Marlia, in the Lucchesia region, is one of the most beautiful in Tuscany, a wonderful place where you can walk amongst the green, discover the places of delight that belonged to the aristocracy and have a picnic. Of the many monumental villas in the Lucchesia, Marlia is the most spectacular. The dream of Napoleon's sister Of early medieval origins, the complex belonged at the beginning of the 19th century to Napoleon's sister, Princess Elisa Bonaparte of Lucca, who enlarged it and also created an English garden in the large park, one of few in Italy. The villa was later assigned to the Bourbons, who continued to use it as a court residence, then to King Victor Emmanuel II, and, after a number of setbacks, was purchased by the Pecci Blunt counts in 1923. The Pecci Blunt counts oversaw the renovation of the park, entrusting it to a renowned French architect, Jacques Greber, who created streams, woods, a lake and other landscape elements that we can still appreciate today. In recent years, the villa complex in Marlia has been the subject of an extensive restoration project by its current owners, allowing it to reopen to the public in 2019. Pan's Cave In the oldest part of the garden is Pan's grotto, a nymphaeum built between 1570 and 1580, dedicated to the deity of shepherds and the countryside. On the outside, it is characterised by wide arcades beyond which one enters a cave-like environment decorated with carved heads and niches. The work is attributed to Bernardo Buontalenti, the same artist who created the grotto in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. The two Italian gardens Dating back to the 17th century, the Italian-style garden of the Marlia villa has come down to us after various transformations and is divided into two parts: the upper hanging garden, on the terrace, at the centre of which is a magnificent magnolia, and the lower garden, with the classic square flowerbeds enclosed by hedges containing boxwood plants pruned into spherical shapes. The statues in the niches and the gravel paths as pink as the boundary wall create an overall harmony. The oldest Verzura Theatre Built between 1666 and 1670, the Villa di Marlia's Verzura theatre is the oldest in Europe, an extraordinary testimony to the taste of the time to equip the most important gardens with natural open-air theatres made of vegetation: the stage is a lawn, the curtains are sculpted yew hedges adorned with terracotta statues representing characters from the commedia dell'arte. Theatrical performances are still held in this place of delight, where Niccolò Paganini played his violin for Elisa Bonaparte. The Camellia Avenue The first camellias in the Marlia villa were brought from the Royal Palace of Caserta, ordered by Elisa Bonaparte for her brother Joseph, then on the throne of Naples, as rare exotic plants. It is thanks to Elisa that today camellias are a characteristic element of this magnificent area. Camellias are plants of Asian origin that have acclimatised very well in the Lucchesia region, so much so that the famous Exhibition of Ancient Camellias is held here at the beginning of March. The plants in the park have of course been refreshed and enriched with new varieties, allowing the extraordinary diversity of colours and shapes to be appreciated. The Spanish garden and swimming pool Among the innovations introduced by Greber's work in the 1920s, we find the Spanish Art Deco garden characterised by geometric shapes, the presence of water fountains and the flowering of hibiscus, climbing roses, evonimiums and hypericum. We also owe the lake to Greber, which today is one of the most important landscape elements of the entire garden, as well as a functional structure for the proper irrigation of the park. In the heated swimming pool (very modern for the time), built in 1928 along with tennis, bowling and croquet courts, the writer Alberto Moravia and the artist Salvador Dalì were among the many guests of the Pecci Blunt. The olfactory route The great botanical biodiversity of the park at the Villa di Marlia, which was restored thanks to the work begun in 2015, now makes it possible to transform every visit into a sensory experience where you can be guided above all by your sense of smell. There are so many scents and essences that welcome visitors to the park in every season, and they are the same that Elisa Bonaparte and the many distinguished guests of her residence must have enjoyed. To find out more The villa and gardens in Marlia are open daily from March to early November and November to December only at weekends. Dogs are allowed.
Art & Culture

Miramare Castle

Nature and history in the Miramare Castle Park Right outside Trieste you can enter the oasis of the Miramare Castle park, and spend pleasant hours surrounded by vegetation. It is an unmissable stop, just six kilometres from the capital of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It is no coincidence that it is the most visited castle in the entire North East. What is particularly attractive is the park, which overlooks the sea from above, creating a meeting of green and deep blue. An out-of-town excursion where nature plunges into history. Love at first sight It was Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg, who fell madly in love with the spectacular location, commissioning the entire Miramare Castle complex in the mid-1800s. The park and historic residence stand on the promontory of Grignano, a rocky spur overlooking the bay, like a lookout. In Maximilian's time, it was a karstic territory, completely parched, but the Archduke was not daunted by the difficult task of transforming a barren heath into a lush garden. From 1856 onwards, he started the building work on the mansion and the complex task of reclaiming the land to make it suitable for planting. Maximilian moved into the newly completed residence in 1860. He lived here for a long time with his wife Carlotta, Princess of Belgium, choosing the name Miramare, from Spanish mira el mar, “look at the sea”. Another noblewoman was strongly fascinated by this place: his sister-in-law Elisabeth of Bavaria, the famous Princess Sissi, who was a frequent guest. English gardens and exotic species: the green area Twenty-two hectares of parkland surround Miramare Castle. Maximilian of Austria expressed his preference for non-European plants, supplied by nurserymen in Lombardy-Venetia, while soil was brought from the regions of Styria and Carinthia. When the nobleman found himself in Mexico, where he died in 1867, he personally sent some species to enrich the parterre. Besides the engineer Carl Junker, two personalities later took care of the botanical aspect: court gardeners Josef Laube and later Artur Jelinek, who also managed to plant exotic species, despite the adverse climate of Trieste, where night frosts and bora wind are not uncommon. Today, the park has two distinct zones. The first, to the east, is a grove of trees and delightful ponds, paths and gazebos, in the romantic style of English gardens. The second faces south-west, better protected from the wind; it houses an Italian-style garden and several flower beds, including the daffodil garden, which blooms exuberantly in spring. The Residence Open to the public like the entire park, Miramare Castle can be visited inside. On the ground floor are the private flats of the princes, on the upper floor the state rooms. The sumptuous Throne Room is currently used as a hall for concerts and exhibitions. The residence is furnished with furniture, precious objects, paintings and canvases. Set apart from the main building, the Stables, once used to house horses and carriages, were restored in 2018 and one wing now houses BIOdiversitario Marino (BioMa), the Immersive Museum of the Protected Marine Area of Miramare. A café is available to visitors, as well as a bookshop. Atmosphere Already on arrival, passing through Porta Bora and along Viale Miramare leading to the Castle, you breathe in a nostalgic atmosphere of times gone by. It is worth taking a slow walk along the winding paths and under the pergolas to the greenhouses with their original iron structures. Moving around the park, there are many encounters: Orante, a bronze male statue, then a copy of Venus of Capua and Apollino, an adolescent version of the god. The fountains provide coolness on hot days, as do the ponds and the larger Swan Lake. In the square with the cannons donated by Leopold I, King of the Belgians, you can breathe in all the power of the Austro-Hapsburg Empire, while in the halls of the castle, you can almost see the young Princess Sissi twirling at a ballroom party. The library has a thick scent of history. And under the oleanders, near the Serre Antiche, one's thoughts turn to the court gardener Anton Jelinek, because they were just recently planted following a precise wish of his that emerged in old correspondence. He did not succeed because the temperatures were too cold, but here they are today, in his honour.
Art & Culture

Villa della Pergola

Villa della Pergola: an experience through history and nature In Alassio, a town in Liguria, the park of Villa della Pergola overlooks the sea and the spectacular panorama of the coast. Its origins date back to the late 19th century, but it was landscape architect Paolo Pejrone who restored the gardens in 2006, and today, thanks to his work, the area's 22,000 square metres have returned to their former glory. In keeping with the Anglo-Mediterranean style, the historical species were recovered and, the botanical catalogue was further enriched, so that the park now boasts a number of firsts: with its 34 varieties, the wisteria collection is the largest in Italy, while the 500 species of agapanthus make up the richest in Europe. The villa, surrounded by gardens, houses an exclusive hotel, a charming relais that preserves the atmosphere of yesteryear. Memories go back to the past, when English nobility moved to this historic residence, attracted by the mild climate and beauty of the region. The 15 suites evoke turn-of-the-century sophistication in antique furnishings, in Victorian and Edwardian paintings. The Michelin-rated restaurant completes the experience. An explosion of colours to the rhythm of the seasons Hydrangeas, oleanders, bougainvillea, jasmine and old roses. Strolling through the park of Villa della Pergola is like entering a botanical garden, always offering new surprises to the rhythm of the seasons. A living and vital environment, therefore, changeable, with an intriguing dynamism. If you are of a romantic disposition, April is the perfect month, because you will find wisteria in their heyday, with the clusters in fresh bloom. The spectacle is such that the English nobility, in the 20th century, liked to organise for the occasion the 'Wisteria Festival', an event of wide appeal for the elite. A feast for the eyes, now within every visitor’s reach. In May, roses and lavender flourish and a sweet aroma wafts through the air. If it is the shades of blue and azure that you love, then the right time is between June and late July: the first flowers of the agapanthus make waves, similar to those of the sea. Instead, lantanas and hibiscus wait until the end of summer to fill themselves with colourful flowers. Not lacking a touch of exoticism Alongside Mediterranean vegetation, including maritime pines, olive trees and myrtle, the Villa della Pergola park also boasts exotic species, including some rare specimens. For experts and lovers of botany it is a further point of interest, for tourists a pleasant discovery, an imaginary journey to distant lands, straight from this corner of the Ligurian Riviera. Various types of water lilies can be seen in the ponds dotting the garden, including the Blue Water Lily, which recalls the myths of ancient Egypt. The water basin holds a riot of lotuses and thoughts run to the Far East, to the ornamental ponds in the temples of China and Japan. An entire room is dedicated to tropical plants. Various species of palm trees, from all corners of the globe, from the Canary Islands to Asia and Central America, predominate, as well as imposing bamboos, which reach eight metres in height. An absolute rarity is the Wollemia Nobilis, a prehistoric conifer of Australian origin, known from fossils and yet here it is alive and well: it is one of only a hundred specimens worldwide. The exoticism also extends to the fine collection of citrus fruits. Alongside the local varieties (the most notable being the famous Chinotto di Savona, a Slow Food Presidium) appears the Buddha's Hand Cedar. The name of oriental origin refers to the curious shape of the fruit: not spherical, but jagged and divided into several independent sections, resembling a hand with many fingers. The citrus fruit Murraya Paniculata, the smallest in nature, is also worth a look; the Indians use the leaves to create curry, their country's national dish. A stellar gastronomic break is also possible A relaxing stay in the sophisticated suites of the historic house, an exploration of the park and finally the dining experience. Villa della Pergola is home to the Michelin-starred Restaurant Nove, with tables overlooking the sea, some outdoors. The garden bursts onto the plate with its aromatic herbs, vegetables and citrus fruits, aromas that enhance a modern cuisine strongly rooted in the land, with French influences. There is all the richness of Liguria in the dishes that use local ingredients: spiny artichokes, Taggiasche olives, Oneglia scampi, anchovies... The tasting menus, dedicated to the vegetable garden and the region, are highly recommended.
Art & Culture

MAXXI L'Aquila

The MAXXI in L'Aquila: a crossroads of contemporary cultures Never call it a branch: inaugurated on 3 June 2021, MAXXI L'Aquila is indeed the second headquarters of the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, but it is much more than a branch. The idea for the museum is very recent: it was born in 2014, after the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini visited Palazzo Ardinghelli, which had been severely damaged by the earthquake of 6 April 2009. Following restoration and a series of works, this 18th-century building was adapted to house the new museum dedicated to21st-century art, architecture and photography. A symbol of renewal The Maxxi L'Aquila is located in Piazza Santa Maria in Paganica, in the historical centre, and stands as an important sign for the entire city that still bears the scars of the earthquake of 6 April 2009. The ambitious project aims to turn this museum hub into a crossroads of communication, encounters and collaboration between several contemporary expressive languages, and also between all those working in the art world, from galleries to foundations, from research institutes to other museums, so that all the leading organisations, both national and international, may have a voice. A meeting place, in short, modelled on the MAXXI in Rome, where visual arts, photography, architecture and performance art dialogue with each other. Palazzo Ardinghelli: a National Monument The halls of MAXXI L'Aquila alone are worth a visit. Palazzo Ardinghelli, in fact, was among the first historical buildings in the city to be built after the 1703 earthquake, thanks to the family whose name it still bears today. Erected on a palace of Renaissance origin and completed in 1743, today it has a late Baroque facade due to later reconstructions: it was only finished in 1955 and makes the building one of the finest examples of L'Aquila Baroque. The element that characterises the architecture, together with the façade, is the courtyard, from which a monumental staircase of Borrominian derivation originates, frescoed by the Venetian Vincenzo Damini in 1749. The inner courtyard, which runs through the building between Piazza Santa Maria in Paganica and Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, makes the museum a public space available to the city. In 1902, the Palace was declared a National Monument. In front stands the church of Santa Maria Paganica, which gives its name to the square of the same name. A museum in flux MAXXI L'Aquila, at least for the moment, does not have a permanent collection, but is often the venue for workshops, talks, in-depth activities and educational projects that allow for a continuous and lively exchange with the local area, but also with anyone who happens to visit it. A real museum in the making, where nothing is static but the result of constant, ongoing interactions between artists and visitors. If you are passing through L'Aquila, make sure to drop in: at any time of year you will find something worth seeing. MAXXI L'Aquila is open on Thursdays from 16:00 to 20:00 and from Friday to Sunday from 11:00 to 19:00. Keep an eye on the official website to check out special openings and events not to be missed. Find out more
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