Located at the French and Italian border, the Handbury Gardens cover most of Capo Mortola with their 45 acres (18 hectares), half of which are cultivated as gardens and the rest being native vegetation. Thomas Handbury purchased the land in 1867, together with the ruins of an 11th century, « Palazzo Orengo », with a fortune acquired in China from trading in silk, cotton and tea. Ludwig Winter designed the new gardens before Thomas’ daughter in law, Dorothy Handbury brought important changes to the gardens between 1925 and 1939. Sadly, the property suffered heavy damages during the war. It was later sold to the Italian State (1960) and then entrusted to the university of Genoa (1987).

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

5800 ornamental, medicinal or fruiting species from all over the world were patiently collected and planted by the Handburys, starting from 150 years ago and it is a delightful pleasure of discovering each of them along winding paths across the property.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

What a splash of color this Firecracker Plant (Russelia Equisetiformis) generously emotes! You would like the same at home ?

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

This fountain, Fonta Nirvana, dates back to 1872 and was planned by Ludwig Winter. It is amazing how these Agaves Attenuata grow right out of the wall ! Apparently these species didn’t need to develop thorns for defense because they live naturally on rock faces.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

How primitive these specimen look !

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Or even funny with their large robes… These are Dasylirion Serratifoliums.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

While emanating from most continents, it is obvious that these plants thrive in Handbury as a result of the mild Mediterranean climate, the shelter provided by the nearby mountains and the proximity of the sea. Many specimens are really of impressive size

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

This charming temple ‘Tempietto’ was brought here in 1947 from another property of the Handbury family located in England. Thomas Handbury’s daughter in law, Dorothy Symons-Jeune is buried beneath it.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

And we have arrived at the romantic Mermaid fountain

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Passing through an ancient gateway leading to the piazza of the Palazzo, we can admire the flamboyant trumpet vines adorning the pergolas.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

The Palazzo was built by a junior member of a Milanese family, the Lanteri, after returning from the First Crusade in the 11th century. Queen Victoria even came for a visit in the 19th century.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

On the piazza is this impressive Japanese Bell dated 1764, which comes from a Buddhist temple

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

From the South Terrace of the Palazzo, we have a sweeping view over the Mediterranean Sea from the bay of Latte to Ventimiglia and Bordighera.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

This beautiful pergola, Topia, with stone pillars welcomes a rich selection of plants of the Bignonia family : Campsis Radicans, Campsis Grandiflora and many others

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

What a delight for the eyes !

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Another romantic pathway

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Leading to the Cypress avenue, which crosses the whole garden and constitutes the central part of the original access to the Palazzo, when the entrance was on the ancient Roman road.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

This Moorish Kiosk was built in 1886 by the architect Pio Soli. Beneath lie the ashes of Thomas Handbury and his wife.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

The Cypress Walk then leads us to the bridge over the Roman road : this road, which is commonly called Via Aurelia, is actually the Via Julia Augusta, an important line of communication finished in 12 BC that connected Tortona to Aix en Provence.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

What a nice way to ornate the steps : a bouquet of Shrimp Plants (Justicia Brandegeana) and Firecracker Plants (Russelia Equisetiformis) on each side

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Beautiful specimens of Angel’s Trumpets (Brugmansia) from south America and used for their therapeutic and psychedelic purposes during religious ceremonies.

A majestic Acaccia Karro ‘Hayne’ with its grapes of gold mimosa-looking flowers

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Starring in the middle of the Dragon Fountain is a Japanese bronze that Sir Thomas brought from Kyoto. It is surrounded by papyrus (Cyperus Papyrus) whose stalks were used by the Egyptians to make paper. If you are lucky, you will even see some turtles lazily enjoying the rays of sunshine

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

In the opening of an old cave is the Slave, a marble statue from the school of the famous Italian sculptor Antonio Canova.

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

Across the path, the Mediterranean Sea

Handbury Gardens, Garden visit, Garden design

What a fantastic property ! Definitively worth a visit. But make sure you wear the right shoes ! There are lots of ups and downs !