The not-so-secret gardens~

A walk in the park~

When traveling to Italy, our first order of business is to start the Gardens We Want to Visit list. Often times, this list gets started long before the plane tickets are purchased.

Cities and towns all across Italy have gardens to see and villas to tour. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy those gardens. The weather is pleasant, the throngs of summer tourists have all gone home, and the staff feels more inclined to answer questions and grant you access to the hidden sights that are off limits to the touring hoards.

Most of these gardens are not flower gardens. I’d suggest going to England for those. These gardens are a green oasis from the everyday challenges of life–a calming and sometimes fanciful place to relax.

Here are links to some of our favorite gardens and villas:

Villa Cetinale, just outside of Siena:

Villa Lante in Bagnaia, just outside of Viterbo:

Palazzo Farense, south of Viterbo:

Il Parco dei Mostri (The Monster Park), north of Viterbo:

Villa Gamberaia, just east of Florence:



About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

  1. therandomgourmettherandomgourmet10-21-2009


  2. Mark LeslieMark Leslie10-21-2009

    Yes, the Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola in the province of Viterbo is pretty spectacular. Stupefacente–amazing, as the Italians would say. The Palazzo is pentagon-shaped with the interior being an open-air courtyard with a series of heavily frescoed loges on 3 different stories. The gardens and fountains extend up the hillside in a series of terraces behind the palazzo leading through the woods and up to the summer house shown in the photo above. Beyond the summer house is yet another fountain and garden with a large lawn and statuary. The palazzo is tucked away in this tiny town–truly a hidden gem in the Lazio countryside.Thanks for commenting~Ciao,Mark

  3. Leigh Laser CollinsLeigh Laser Collins10-23-2009

    Please, darling Mark, TAKE ME WITH YOU!!!!!!!!!!! (P.S. Hootie hoo!)

  4. Mark LeslieMark Leslie10-24-2009

    Any time you want to go with us–come on!

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.