The first time I came visiting the gardens was with the school, I was around eight years old and apart of running up and down the hill in the middle of the green I didn't get really impressed. It was only later once started my university studies that I came back more often and enjoyed spending some afternoons here walking around, discovering new corners, relaxing while reading a book wrapped up by the perfume of sweet flowers.
Laid out in terraces, the 18ha Hanbury Botanical Gardens occupy the whole Capo Mortola between Mentone and Ventimiglia.
Sir Thomas Hanbury in love with this hill bought it in 1867 and started the works that would have ended creating one of the most known gardens in Italy. The perfect mild climat of Liguria Ponente, protected by the mountains could give home to an incredible variety of exotic plants, with over 6,000 species from all around the world. All the domain is overlooking the sea, the beautiful Palazzo dating from the 11th century and all the path are surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers that tumble down the hillside to a picnic area next to the beach.
Once crossing the beautiful entrance portal built in the end of the 19th Century, the path slowly go down the hill in the middle of Australian, Mexican, and South African plants to the first beautiful fountain "Fontana Nirvana" built in 1872. Continuing the road the view opens on the area of Aloe from were you can reach a little temple "Tempietto" brought here in 1947 and where Thomas Hanbury's daughter Dorothy is buried.
Below the little temple you have the beautiful Mermaid Fountain. The following steps that will lead you were constructed during the early construction of the garden and represent an important axis that lead you to the Palazzo. On the piazza in front of the Palazzo you have an interesting Japanese bell imported by Thomas Hanbury from a Buddhist temple during one of his travels.
Below, the path leads you to the Dragon Fountain, were you'll see a beautiful bronze dragon statue that he bought from an antique dealer in Kyoto, surrounded by green papyrus and if you follow a path under an arch you arrive at the lowest part of the gardens.
The "Giardinetto", It consists of three terraces that are connected to one another by steps and were built inside the ruins of an old building. There are no records to explain its original use, you'll find here some ancient variety of rose and peony. From the next arch you enter the Scented Garden, which consist in two terraces built in 1928 with many scented plants like bitter orange, honeysuckle, roses, wintersweet etc. The legend tells that the "Giardinetto" and the "Scented Garden" were the favourite parts of Lady Hanbury, taking care of those plants and spending most of her time there, and also that if you stay in the gardens after sunset, it's possible to glimpse her ghost walking in that part of the gardens.
A beautiful Cypress Avenue crosses the whole breadth of the garden and lead you on the bridge that cross the ancient Roman road that is till visible. While it's commonly called the Via Aurelia, it's actually the Via Julia Augusta, a road begun in 13 b.c. by Augustus that ran from Arles to Ventimiglia that had been crossed by many historical characters like: Napoleon, Nicolò Macchiavelli, Dante etc.
At the beginning of the Avenue you have the Moorish Mausoleum, a temple with an oriental style built in 1886 where lies the ashes of Thomas Hanbury and his wife.
From the Mausoleum the cypress avenue will lead you to the Australian Forest, continuing to a collection of ancient varieties of citrus trees to finally arrive at the bottom of the hill at the building by the sea that is now used as a refreshment bar, but was many years ago a laundry.
This is only a small part of what you can see here in the Gardens, since 1987 the University of Genoa became the administrator and responsible of the Hanbury Gardens and they opened 9ha to the public, which depending on the seasons, are full of scented flowers and fruits, spending a day or even only an afternoon here is not only relaxing but inspiring and invigorating.
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