The Monumental Valsanzibio Garden is located about 30 km from Padova. It was created thanks to the noble Venetian Barbarigo family. In 1631 the family fled here to escape the Black Death. The head of the family Zuane Francesco Barbarigo made a vow to God. Since he had already unfortunately lost his wife, he asked that the rest of the family was spared. In return he would have created something monumental to thank Him. The son, Cardinal Gregorio Barbarigo (later become Saint), inspired the symbolism underlying the project: the path of men towards perfection, passing from error to truth and from ignorance to revelation. The architect who performed it (between 1665 and 1696) was Luigi Bernini, brother of the most famous Gian Lorenzo (Piazza San Pietro in Rome).
Did you know that… In the garden there are more than 800 trees, some of which are very old. They date back to 1664. Impressive, right? The garden is also the only one in the world where there are boxwood shrubs so high, so “old” (I don’t mean to offend them) and so numerous.
The portal you can already spot from the road, as soon as you arrive, is the Diana Portal. It was once the water entrance of the estate, and also the beginning of the spiritual path. Seen from the road, you can admire Diana on top (goddess of hunting), a bearded mask (the Barbarigo family, because of the name. Barba in Italian means beard). Then there are Actaeon and Endymion on the sides (those who can not get satisfied, i.e. he other Venetian nobles) and below Statues of common people. On the balustrade: Mercury, Hercules, Jupiter and Apollo.
The feature of the garden:
- Avenues (cardo and decumano like in the Roman towns) lined with beautiful trees and boxwood hedges
- Statues of Istrian stone
- Ponds (one of them give hospitality to some funny ducks)
- An Island of rabbits (symbol of Immanence) with actual rabbits living on it,
- A Monument to Time (symbol of Transcendence)
- A beautiful Maze, most beloved by children (and me, of course). I would avoid central day hours in July and August (too hot).
The Maze, 1,5 km long, is composed by 6.000 evergreen boxwood shrubs, most of which has 400 years. If you read the panels at the entrance you will realize how much work it takes to cure this maze! Plus the maze has a symbolic meaning: the tortuous path towards perfection. Inside there are six dead ends that represent Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Wrath, Envy and Sloth and furthermore a vicious circle that represents the worst sin, Pride.
Valsanzibio Garden – my experience
The park is very nice. Sadly there are only a few flowers. There are not many benches to sit around and a couple of them hide a funny trick! I won’t say anything more, I don’t want to spoil the fun! Without lingering much, the visit is quite short, mostly because you can only admire the villa from the outside, which is a shame because it must be wonderful. I wish I could have the chance to see it sooner or later! I found out in the official website that you can visit the villa only by appointment with a tour. And you can also rent this beautiful location. Wow, luxurious!
There are no explanations in the various points of interest within the park, so you should read the panels at the entrance. For orientation, however, you’ll be given a map at the entrance. To the right of the villa you will find the toilets. The adjacent shop was closed that day (I read on their website that it is open only on public holidays and… on request. Weird). The so called “food court” was… only a vending machine. Nearby there is a picnic area, hidden behind the hedges.
Do not expect a huge complex. It’s a nice garden, calm and peaceful. Nature lovers will really appreciate this place, not besieged by tourists. The price can seem high, but the Garden is private and I think it costs a fortune to maintain it! And, more than the garden, it is the philosophical message that matters here.
Have you been there already? What do you think about the gardens? Let me know!
- Only small size dogs are allowed inside the Garden!
Via Diana, 2, Valsanzibio – Galzignano Terme PD, Italy
The garden is open daily from March to November from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to sunset (Sundays and holidays open all day).
It is possible to arrange guided tours by appointment (also during other periods of the year).
Full price 10€