Gardens of Ninfa

January 26, 2012 / Places
Ninfa, Lazio
These incredible gardens and ruins are what remains of the ancient city of Ninfa, now long gone. It got its name from a small temple dedicated to the nymphs of the headwaters of the aptly-named Nymphaeus River.

Situated along the old Via Pedemontana, (lit. “Foot-of-the-mountain Road”), Ninfa held a strategic position in Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages as it was the safe route south whenever the Pontine marshes rose making the Via Appia impassable due to malaria. Given that Ninfa itself was eventually abandoned in the 16th century due to Malaria gives you an idea of how serious a problem this was in the area. Being sacked by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in the 12th century for having given refuge to Pope Alexander III certainly didn’t help it’s fortunes, nor did it being greatly damaged again in the 14th century due to papal wars and inter-aristocratic-family disputes.

The city passed into the hands of the Caetani family in the 13th century, before it was abandoned for good, falling into ruins. Fast-forward a few centuries, and in in 1972 the lands were placed in a trust (The Fondazione Caetani) by a descendant of the family, and opened to the public.

A visit now is as peaceful as could be, a far cry from Ninfa’s troubled history. You can picnic outside the entrance (tables w/ awnings set up), where there is a makeshift bar for snacks. They sell roses, geraniums, and other plants so you can take a bit of Ninfa gardens home (the old-world roses are incredibly pungent).

As for the visit, you walk through with a guide. However, at the end, you can pay an extra 2 euro to go in the Hortus Conclusus where there are boxed hedges, manicured paths, fruit trees, a stand of bamboo, swans, ducks, more ruins, where you are left on your own to appreciate this incredible location and its history. Perfect for a spring visit!

Be sure to consult the website for visiting dates and times, as they are limited.

– Images kindly contributed by Elizabeth Geoghegan.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

14 Responses to “Gardens of Ninfa”

  1. Barbara Goldfield
    Barbara Goldfield

    Thanks GB for this post on Ninfa, the closest thing there is to the garden of Eden.

  2. Lovely! Another secret garden in Italy! Thanks GB for the history lesson and Elizabeth Geoghegan for your gorgeous photographs. A treat first thing in the morning!

  3. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    This is truly a great note,the imagery is wonderful! How did I miss this treasure? It is on My list. grazie tanti Sig. GB

  4. Katharina

    GB, one of my favourite places in Italy, truly magic place. I went there one early may morning and it was raining, but this added humidity only enhanced the sense of lusciousness and abundance of the place. The first trip I made with my to be husband!

  5. Breathtaking! Thank you for the beautiful photos and the wonderful history lesson.

  6. Virginia C. Mars

    Another lovely and enchanting place to put on my ‘to visit’ list. It is getting quite long due to the wonderful sites shown on the website. Thank you.

  7. Sermoneta our home, 10 minutes away, is not to be missed when you visit Ninfa. It was also a Caetani possession, and its is castle also protected by the foundation. Sermoneta is easily one of the best preserved Medieval hill towns in Lazio, if not in all of Italy. It has an artsand theatre festival in May and a month long music festival in July. Thanks again, GB

  8. Gian Banchero

    Seeing all the flowers in bloom is a wonderful reminder that spring is just around the corner, beautiful photographs… Barbara Goldfield is correct in stating that the Gardens of Ninfa are the closest thing to the Garden of Eden… Thank you Elizabeth and GB for reminding us of the season to come.

  9. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thanks both of you. A happy combination of prose and photography. Love the green leaves.

  10. Giancarlos:
    You brought back many fond memories. We often took this road back to Rome from the Amalfi Coast to avoid the traffic and simply enjoy the simple beauty of the countryside. Thankful for no malaria thee days. Absolutely tranquil and beautiful.
    S & S

  11. WOW! I never knew these stunning gardens existed until now. Thank you so much for this post. Next time I’m in Italy this is now a must see for me.

  12. Leon Beverly

    Went in the early morning of early May, 2009 and as the commenters say, the gardens were beautiful, peaceful and are as you might imagine the Garden of Eden to be. Thanks for the post.

  13. Donna Capitano Nardozzi

    I often wondered about my mother-in-law’s first name of Ninfa.
    All she knew was that it was the name of a town. She would have loved to see what a beautiful place she was named after.


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