Italian land and nature: The Garden of Ninfa
- WTI Magazine #168 Oct 21, 2023
The Garden of Ninfa (Giardino di Ninfa), built on the ruins of the medieval town of Ninfa in the Pontine Marshes (Agro Pontino), has been classified by the New York Times as one of the most beautiful and romantic gardens in the world.
Declared a Natural Monument by the Lazio Region, the garden, given the delicate environmental balance, may only be visited on certain days of the year, but the beauty of this place is well worth a visit.
The name Ninfa (Nymph) derives from a temple of the Roman era, dedicated to the Naiad Nymphs goddesses of spring water, which is still located in the garden.
The city of Ninfa was destroyed in the fourteenth century; since the sixteenth century, several members of the Caetani family present in the Pontine and Lepine territory for many centuries, decided to create a garden with precious botanical varieties, pools of water and fountains. However, it was only in the nineteenth century that Ada Bootle Wilbraham, the wife of Onoraro Caetani, and her sons built an actual Anglo-Saxon style garden, by draining the swamps, planting cypress trees, oaks, beeches, and restoring some ruins, including the baronial palace.
The care of the garden was continued by the descendants of the Caetani family, until the last heir, Lelia, who added various botanical species and established the Roffredo Caetani Foundation.
There are 1300 botanical species over the eight acres of landscape. You can admire nineteen varieties of deciduous magnolia, birch, water iris and several Japanese maples. The ornamental cherry trees that bloom in the spring, apple trees and the tulip tree are also spectacular.
There are many varieties of roses that climb on trees and ruins along the river and streams, making this a particularly romantic place.
Tropical plants such as the avocado, the South American Gunnera manicata and the banana trees can also be admired.
The river and the oasis
The River Ninfa rises near the city and flows for 30 km towards the Pontine plain, forming the eponymous lake whose waters house a particular species of trout, imported from Africa thousands of years ago by the Romans.
A 1,800 acre oasis was created around the nucleus of Ninfa in 1976 in order to protect the local fauna which includes 152 species of birds, including some raptors such as the Peregrine Falcon and the Barn Owl, and several species of wading birds such as the Grey Heron.