Welcome to paradise!
Verona is a quiet and relaxing city but at some times it can get busy, particularly in summer when there are many visitors, making life a little bit hectic as you try to weave your way through the crowds.
Fortunately, just across the Adige river, in the heart of the Veronetta district, hidden away like a precious jewel, there is a place where you can get away from it all in one of the most magnificent examples of an Italian garden: the Giardino Giusti.
The Giusti family. From 1400 to the present day
Of all the sights in Verona, you must not miss the Palazzo and Giardino Giusti, which date back to 1400, when Provolo Giusti, whose family had moved here from Tuscany at the end of the previous century to work in the wool dying industry, purchased some land close to the where Via Postumia used to run, the Roman road which formed the main east-west connection to the north-east side of the peninsula. This area, where you can now enjoy the gardens, was used for two centuries by the Giusti family to boil the huge cauldrons in which the wool was treated and to hang out the fabric.
The palace itself is the result of combining several small buildings which were used for the wool business and converting them into a formal palazzo during the 1500s under the guidance of Agostino Giusti. This cultured man, a knight of the Republic of Venice and a Gentiluomo del Granduca di Toscana, was a lover of music and the arts. He also devoted himself to laying out the gardens, in a contemporary style based on the gardens of the Medici rulers of Florence.
As you will see, a stroll through the Giusti gardens, the green heart of Veronetta, will leave you feeling calm and relaxed. The mixture of Renaissance statues, pergolas, splendid flowerbeds and one of Europe’s oldest mazes will help you to refresh your mind in this beautiful paradise. From the courtyard beyond the main gate, you will be guided a long avenue of cypress trees, at the end of which there is a huge carnival mask carved into the rock. Once upon a time, smoke and fire would emanate from the mouth of this unusual sculpture, thought to have been designed by Bartolomeo Ridolfi. A truly impressive sight for visitors! Today, the highest points of the gardens offer some of the best views over the city..
Famous visitors throughout its history
Every single corner of the gardens is designed to impress, from the maze (redesigned by Luigi Trezza in 1786) to the cave on the upper level, which was once covered with mirrors and frescoes and decorated with shells, coral, mother-of-pearl and sponges. Close to the entrance courtyard, there is the mighty Geothe cypress tree, more than six hundred years old, admired by the writer in 1786 and mentioned in his “Italian Journey” from 1817.
Early this morning, I was amazed that whilst everyone was returning from the market carrying a souvenir from there, whether flowers, vegetables or garlic, everyone turned to stare at a cypress twig that I held in my hand, from which were hanging fruits similar in form to those of the pine. Furthermore, I also held some flowering caper plants. Everyone was looking at me, men, women and children and they seemed to find it strange. I had taken the twigs from the Giusti gardens, which stands in an agreeable position and where there are enormous pyramid-shaped cypress trees of great height. It is likely that the yew trees in the gardens of the north, artificially cut into a point, represented an attempt to imitate this marvellous tree, the branches of which, young or old, from the bottom to the top, rise upwards towards the sky. The cypress itself is no less than three hundred years old and can be said to be worthy of reverence; to judge from the time when the Giusti garden was planted, this tree can be said to have already reached a respectable age.
As Grand Tours of Europe became more popular in the 18th century, the Giusti gardens became a must-see destination for all travellers passing through Verona, mainly intellectuals and the nobility: in addition to Goethe, Cosimo III of Tuscany, Charles de Brosses, Mozart, Addison, Evelyn, Ruskin, Emperor Joseph II, King Charles Felix of Sardinia and Tsar Alexander of Russia were all deeply impressed by the sheer beauty of this little green corner of Verona.
The gardens, which are currently being restored, are still laid out in the classical style, with a simplicity of architectural style, focussed on mythology and the link with the classical world, with few flowers, few bushes and exotic trees. You will note that there are all the elements which were fashionable in 16th century gardens: pots with citrus trees, mythological statues, fountains, lemon houses, caves, masks, Roman remains and pavilions where you could rest and admire the view.
An historic palace and gardens to explore
Do not miss a visit to Apartment 900: a unique opportunity to visit this elegant and refined apartment, recreating the day-to-day life of the Giusti family from previous centuries. The rooms will take your breath away, the effect enhanced by the skilful use of trees to emphasise the beauty of the furnishings and the architecture. Poets, artists, the nobility and intellectuals have fallen in love with the wonder of this garden and even today visitors continue to succumb to the charms of this little piece of paradise. The complex, which is still owned by the Giusti family, is open to visitors every day and regularly hosts public and private events.
And while you are here, don’t miss the opportunity to have a stroll around the Veronetta district and its sights, the highlight of which is this splendid formal garden.