“Ninfa” Stealer of Hearts



Ninfa Gardens, ItalySlim Paley photo

A garden in Italy has stolen my heart.



Ninfa Gardens, ItalySlim Paley Photo

I’m embarrassed to admit that just 45 miles southeast of Rome lies one of the most charming gardens in the world, and yet I’d never even heard of “Ninfa“.  Set amidst the ruins of an eighth century Medieval town and traversed by the sparkling, crystal clear Ninfa river, it stands as a testament to the divine combination of English eccentricity and Italian romance.


Ninfa gardens, outside Rome

For most of it’s history  the property has belonged to the Roman Caetani family.  The original garden was laid out in the 1920′s but it’s present incarnation was created by the English born Duchess of Sermoneta, her daughter-in-law the Princess Caetani, and the princess’ daughter Donna Leilia who amassed over 10,000 plants from all over the world to thrive in this magical place.



The name “Ninfa” derives from a little temple built near the stream and dedicated to Nymph goddesses in Roman times.


Ninfa gardens, Italy

Slim Paley Photo



Gorgeous Ninfa Gardens, ItalySlim Paley photo

I’m at a loss for words to convey how crystal clear and enticing the river was…

In fact I’m quite sure I saw Water Babies peeking out from under the bridge.


The Waterbabies


Mushrooms and rose petals for the Faeries of Ninfa


white lilies in Italy


Ruins, Ninfa Gardens, ItalySlim Paley Photo

We had the garden to ourselves with only a fox and a cuckoo to scold us for loitering too long…





climbing roses

Ciao Bella Ninfa!


Ninfa is only open to the public on a very limited basis. If you are planning a trip to Italy do call ahead and move heaven and earth to visit this little slice of paradise.


All photos by Slim Paley



A million thank you’s to the incredibly talented writer, prolific journalist and gardener extraordinaire Monty Don who shared his knowledge and admiration of Ninfa with us.  I’ve been avidly reading his newest book “The Ivington Diaries” each night before I go to bed and cannot recommend it highly enough.  Based upon 18 years of his garden journals and brimming with beautiful photos all taken by Monty, anyone even remotely enamored of gardens will be utterly charmed by this book. If you’re like me, you’ll be searching Amazon for all his others.


Available in the U.K. now and in the U.S. in July.



OTime to sign off- We’re off to The Chelsea Flower Show tomorrow!!


30 thoughts on ““Ninfa” Stealer of Hearts

  1. i can only agree with lola. each photo took my breath away. No words can explain how my heart is filled with the astounding beauty every where, and my computer screen is getting a little cloudy.
    Thank you once more for sharing , until next time , enjoy every moment keep the photos coming .
    Enjoy , Enjoy . Such a lucky young lady. oxox.

  2. I would want to stay in those gardens forever. Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip.
    The Chelsea Flower Show is going to knock your socks off! ENJOY
    And while you are enjoying all that explosion of Mother Nature at her finest…we had snow yesterday and flurries today. Soon, however, the Wood River Valley will also be in full bloom.

  3. Oh Bravo! The thing I love the MOST is the wildness of it! roses climbing up the trees!!!!!!! things spilling over the walls……vines untamed and providing shelter for birds and animals!

    If in the US that garden would qualify for a “National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat”!

    “Providing shelter, water and food for birds and animals to raise their young”!

    The unmanicured wildness is its beauty! And its contribution to wildlife!

    I almost fainted!

    Thank you so much for finding it…..and for sharing it! BRAVO!!!


  4. Personal tonight. Smell the lovely “bluebelles” for LK!!
    Then offer Sarah Ferguson money to read SP while you walk in the Heath. Reeeeally??!! Enjoy

  5. Those pictures! Oh my. I love the crumbling walls and the climbing roses. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    Have a wonderful time in London. Drink some bubbly at Harvey Nichols for me please!

  6. Thanks for sharing this enchanting spot with us. It is going in my travel files for my next trip to Italy. Happy travels.

  7. speechless….really

    and thank you for the book recommendation, I’m not familiar with Monty Don but i did a bit of Google Stalking and he sounds like someone who does everything with great passion, i’m sure his book will be amazing, here’s hoping our far less superior Amazon Canada carries it:)

    p.s are these “really’s” possibly a take off from SNL?

  8. What a glorious, romantic, mystical garden!
    And how blessed we are that you share it with us!

  9. Now I have to GET to Italy!! and my husband and lover….thank God!
    That took me away for a few minutes…as I sit in my kitchen in
    Chicago and knock out all the chores to be done here…raising 4 boys and a crazy chocolate lab :) Thank you for that!! again :) JO

  10. I love how effortless the garden design at Nimfa feels. So serene and quiet.
    I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful
    than the bluebell I have been looking at.
    I know the beauty of our Lord by it.
    - Gerald Manley Hopkins

  11. WOW this place is like heaven on earth, I am so happy you shared this find with all of us and I am now dying to go there! I hope you enjoy your vacation time in Italy!!! xoxo Bardot in Blue

  12. Ninfa. It’s the best of both worlds – an English garden in a sunnier and warmer climate. Your photos should be made into a book, Slim.

  13. Hi Slim, In reading through your older blogs I came across your recommendation of Monty Don and his garden books. I did go to Amazon to see about him and came across his forward to another book entitled Trauma, Drug Mis-Use and Transforming Identity by Kim Etherington. Trauma and addiction recovery is my field and I am so grateful to have found this book and Monty Don who has a project assisting addicts. I agree with his and Etherington’s philosophy regarding recovery and will be able to use this resource.

    Love how the internet works in these wonderful ways and thanks for the tip on the gardening books, too.

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