Sardinia's historic gardens, people and plants intertwined

Parco di Monserrato - Sassari

Sardinia's historic gardens, people and plants intertwined

From Cagliari's botanical gardens to the garden-island of Caprera and including the parks of the late 19th century villas: seven historic gardens on the island, a combination of rare botanical features and the identity of the local places
plants of rare beauty, together with Neoclassical architecture and archaeological heritage

A journey through scents and colours, art and history, to discover a landscape heritage consisting in seven historic gardens from the end of the 19th century, which combine architecture and botany. Stories of plants and people, of a passion for nature shared by remarkable characters who were apparently completely unrelated: the hero Garibaldi, the 'magnate' engineer Piercy, the 'enlightened' Marquis Aymerich. In 1866, the botanist Patrizio Gennari came up with the idea of having a collection of plants in the centre of Cagliari: that idea became the Botanical Garden, an expanse of five hectares with hundreds of specimens, including tropical plants and a section dedicated to plants from the Bible. Inside, we find an evocative archaeological area: four cisterns from the Roman era are incorporated into a Neoclassical project by the genius Gaetano Cima, who built a small temple to botanical science around them. Alongside the botanical garden is the Roman amphitheatre and the Orto dei Cappuccini.

Orto botanico - Cagliari
Orto Botanico - Cagliari
the huge Aymerich Park in Laconi, and the luxuriant citrus groves in Milis

During the same period, the architect Cima helped the Marquis Ignazio Aymerich of Laconi, a congressman of the Kingdom and a collector of rare plants, to give shape to the 22 hectares that surround the remains of the Aymerich Castle from the 11th century. The Aymerich Garden was thus created as a dense network of avenues, paths and waterfalls, surrounded by holm oaks, mulberry trees, strawberry trees, cherries, deodar and Lebanon cedars. Water abounds around the paths and nourishes the ancient trees. From Sarcidano you can move on to Campidano di Oristano, in Milis, to admire the splendid Pernis-Vacca villa and park, which date back to the beginning of the twentieth century. Cosimo Vacca collected traditional Sardinian species in the citrus groves, including the pompia, a lemon which is native to Siniscola. The most prestigious botanical event in Sardinia has been held here since 2010: Primavera nei Giardini (Spring in the Gardens). In the village in the Oristano area you can also admire the citrus gardens of the ‘Vega’, known as s’Ortu ‘e is paras (the garden of the friars), in memory of the Camaldolese monks who planted them. They are now owned by the Pilo Boyl family from Putifigari, whose noble residence, the palazzo Boyl, can be visited.

Parco Aymerich - Laconi
Palazzo Boyl - Milis
the triumph of green foliage and water at San Leonardo and Piercy's special predilection

A little further north, at Santu Lussurgiu, lies San Leonardo di Siete Fuentes. Five hectares of nature, peace and spirituality: you can admire a small church and the remains of a medieval village, surrounded by maples, chestnut trees, ancient cedars, holm oaks, oak trees, downy oaks and yew trees. The prevailing silence is broken only by the splashing of the water, an eternal music which reflects a place where seven fountains once rose (hence the name Siete Fuentes) which made it so fertile. The romantic attraction for the ‘wild’ Sardinian countryside, for the fragrances of an unspoilt land, kept the Welshman Benjamin Piercy in Sardinia, after coming to plan the island's first railway. The English park he made at Bolotana extends behind the owner's residence. You reach it down a path lined with cypress trees, which confirms Piercy's predilection for conical and cylindrical tree shapes, as part of a ‘design’ with extensive views and a wood of chestnut trees, beeches, walnut and yew trees, and alongside ‘imported’ trees like the Spanish fir, Lawson cypress and the Balearic box tree.

Villa Piercy - Bolotana
San Leonardo, fonte - Santu Lussurgiu
Monserrato and Caprera: the symbol of Sassari and Garibaldi's charming retreat

The park of Monserrato is part of Sassari's natural and historical heritage. The estate was sold in the mid-17th century by the Navarro family from Valencia to the father of the first mayor of Sassari, Giacomo Deliperi. In a suburban landscape surrounded by olive trees, you can admire a garden divided into different levels with panoramic views, and avenues named after trees: lime, holm oaks, carob trees, cypresses and pines. Amongst the citrus trees there are palms, erythtinae, box wood and other Mediterranean plants. In the centre there is a Neoclassical villa, the product of the genius of the beauty-loving businessman Giovanni Antonio Sanna, together with the hydraulic system for the temple and nymphaeum. The itinerary ends its cycle with Gennari. The botanist accepted a special request: Giuseppe Garibaldi asked for his advice from Caprera. In the great park surrounding the ‘white house’ which was once the farm owned by the ‘Hero of Two Worlds’ and is now the Compendio Garibaldino, one of the most visited museums on the island, you can sense the mystic feeling for nature that accompanied Garibaldi in the last years of his life. Clelia's pine, planted to celebrate the birth of his daughter (1867), towers over olive groves and juniper trees. The park is surrounded by the turquoise sea of the Maddalena Archipelago.