“Ninfa” Stealer of Hearts

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Ninfa Gardens, ItalySlim Paley photo

A garden in Italy has stolen my heart.

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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.

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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.

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

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Ninfa gardens, Italy

Slim Paley Photo

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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.

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The Waterbabies

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Mushrooms and rose petals for the Faeries of Ninfa

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white lilies in Italy

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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…

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climbing roses

Ciao Bella Ninfa!

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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.

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All photos by Slim Paley

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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.

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

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