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Hanbury Gardens, wonderful botanical park in Ventimiglia 

An enchanted garden at the beginning of the French Riviera, this is today the Hanbury Gardens of Ventimiglia. A magnificent botanical park, scientifically created in 1867 with plants from all over the world, and restored by the same family after the Great War. Today it is perfect for a regenerating and relaxing break, enjoying the unmissable variety of spring flowering, or to take a walk after lunch by the sea at any time of the year.  

Fonte: italian-riviera.com 

The Hanbury Gardens are located on the promontory of Cape Mortola, almost on the border with France and extend for about 18 hectares. Their area is partly dedicated to the cultivation of subtropical plants originating from the Mediterranean climate areas such as Chile, California, South Africa and Australia, while the remaining part is occupied by totally spontaneous Mediterranean vegetation.   

On the promontory the climate is exceptionally mild, with winter temperatures that rarely reach 0 ºC; at the same time, the presence of microclimates has favored the planting and acclimation of different species from different latitudes. 

The history of the Hanbury Gardens 

The Hanbury Gardens were built in 1867 by order of Thomas Hanbury, who purchased the ancient Orengo Palace and the relevant grounds to turn it into a veritable garden of acclimatisation of exotic plants.  

Thomas’ brother, Daniel, as a botanist and pharmacist, played an important role both in the design and implementation of the project, which included: from the beginning, the destination of about half of the territory to the cultivation of exotic plants from all over the world gathered, subsequently, on the basis of ecological, phytogeographical, systematic and aesthetic-landscape criteria.  

Throughout his life, Thomas Hanbury intertwined and established contacts with both the French Riviera and other parts of Europe, and the Hanbury Gardens attracted the attention of scholars from around the world.

Fonte: marventimiglia.it 

When Thomas died, his Gardens were known everywhere for the wide variety of tropical and subtropical plants housed within them and for the great scientific importance of the collections. His son Cecil and his wife Dorothy took over and enriched the gardens with avenues, fountains and panoramic views.  

Following the numerous damages caused by the bombings of World War II, Dorothy decided to sell the Gardens to the Italian State. Subsequently, in 1987, they were entrusted to the University of Genoa and since 2000 they have been a protected regional area.  

Visiting the Hanbury Gardens 

Currently, the Hanbury Gardens are among the main acclimatisation botanical gardens in the Mediterranean area. But what does “acclimatization” mean? 

Inside it is possible to admire plants that grow naturally in very different climates and that, little by little, adapt to the Mediterranean climate, growing and developing together with other spontaneous species. All this is possible above all because a territory like that from Liguria allows it, since it offers particular meteorological conditions that favor the formation of microclimates.  

Those who visit the Hanbury Gardens can, therefore, discover plants that grow in areas with temperate-warm, tropical and subtropical climates.  

In addition, it is good to emphasize the true objective of the Hanbury Gardens: it is not an ornamental park, created exclusively to please visitors from the aesthetic and decorative point of view but, rather, a place very attentive to the vital and reproductive cycles of plants.

Fonte: wikimedia.org 

In practice, nature is left free to run its course and the human hand intervenes as little as possible, so as to avoid manually removing the dry leaves or irrigating more than necessary during the warmer months.  

As soon as you enter, you follow the main road, characterized by several detours that allow you to discover even the most hidden corners of the Gardens. In any case, just follow the appropriate signs to avoid getting lost! 

Among plants of aloe, agave and yucca, it is possible to admire an important historical, artistic and cultural heritage, starting from the entrance portal: made in the late nineteenth century, it shows the engraving of the Chinese ideogram Fô (that is happiness) to pay homage to the Chinese ambassador to England Kuo Sung Tao, who visited in 1879.

Fonte: blogspot.com 

Afterwards, you can admire the Nirvana Fountain, built in 1872 by Winter, and the Four Seasons area, among the most evocative. The latter is dominated by the Temple, which came into the Gardens in 1947, under whose floor are the ashes of Lady Dorothy.  

Going down to the valley you come across the Siren Fountain, set up in a perspective position together with the staircase that develops perpendicular to the main path.

Fonte: agriturismolegirandole.com 

Visible from several parts of the park, here is the Palace, built in the eleventh century by the Lanteri family of Milan, and then bought by Thomas Hanbury in 1867. The new owner also added several works of art, such as the mosaic depicting Marco Polo and the Japanese Bell in bronze from a Buddhist temple.  

Fonte: fai-platform.imgix.net 

Near the portal that leads to the Palace there is the Topia, a pergola with stone pillars and climbing plants. The corridor ends, then, in Rondò Vecchio, a viewpoint located in the municipality of Bordighera.  

Fonte: italian-riviera.com 

The Gardens also house the Moorish Mausoleum, which houses the ashes of Thomas Hanbury and his wife Katherine Pease. Along the Viale dei Cipressi, you arrive at the bridge on the Roman Road and, later, in the lower area of the gardens, destined for citrus and olive trees.  

Fonte: itinari.com 

Walking along Viale degli Ulivi you will finally reach the snack bar with picnic area and access to the beach. From here, then, the ascent begins following the route from the east, which allows you to discover other flower corners and numerous decorative monuments.  

The Hanbury Gardens are open all year round, but the advice is to visit them in the flowering period, that is between mid-April and early May. In summer, in fact, due to the drought, there are few plants that bloom and it would be a shame not to be able to admire them in all their beauty.

 Copertina: viaggiamo

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