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The secret garden

With its picturesque views, lively squares and majestic palazzi, Verona is a city that knows how to ravish you with its beauty. At the same time, it’s also a city that knows how to hide away some of its most priceless treasures.

With the Giusti Garden, this is especially the case. For me, it was a recent discovery. Certainly, I had always heard about the Garden. But, like many Verona natives, I had never actually been there and barely knew its whereabouts. Those I knew who had seen it described it to me in grand terms, saying it was a real treasure. I thought to myself, “Could such a little known place be so extraordinary?”

Well, the answer is “yes”. It certainly could. The paradox is that the Garden is probably more well-known outside Verona than by us who live there. People like Mozart and Goethe were captivated by the Garden as they walked around its well-groomed paths. They were particularly impressed by its cypress trees.

“This tree, from its top to bottom, whether young or old, reaches up to the sky with all its branches. It can live a good three hundred years and is, indeed, admirable”, wrote Goethe describing the garden’s cypresses. Today, these trees bear his name and are known as “Goethe’s Cypress.

But, before talking all about the Giusti Garden, we should say where it is, especially since it can easily escape one’s notice (as I mentioned). To get there, you need to walk away from the Roman Theatre, with the the Adige River on your right. This will lead you left onto Via Santa Chiara. After a while, the street changes name and becomes Via Giardino Giusti. Right at that point, you access the garden via a Renaissance palazzo and its 16th century atrium.

Nothing from the outside gives a hint of what’s to be found once inside. It is a refined sixteenth-century Italian garden with a central axis made up of an imposing avenue of cypresses. This leads to a staircase which ends in a cave carved out of a rock. Above this, there is a panoramic terrace overlooking the garden. From there, you can appreciate the garden’s geometric design and perspective, which makes it seem even larger than it is.

Is it truly worth losing oneself in the garden, which is also a small open-air museum of Renaissance and neo-classical architecture. The garden was created at the behest of Agostino Giusti, a Tuscan nobleman who had moved to Verona. He wanted to recreate a green oasis like those that spring up in Florence, most notably, for example, the Boboli Gardens. Taking advantage of the natural slope, the land was terraced to allow the garden to ascend the hill behind, giving it its characteristic shape.

Among the flower beds and perennially manicured hedges, you also find marble fountains and statues from Greek mythology. There’s even a labyrinth in the hedges. It may not be as complicated as the Minotaur’s, but it’s still one of the oldest in Europe. There are also many lovely romantic corners, making the garden a favourite destination for couples in love.

The Giusti Garden in located in the Veronetta neighbourhood of Verona, an area which is also full of surprises. This was the first part of the city to become truly multi-ethnic in terms of the shopping and entertainment venues you find there. At the same time, Veronetta is also the centre of the University of Verona and most of the students live in the area.

A starting point for exploring Veronetta is Piazza Isolo (Island Square), which is just 50 metres from the entrance to the Giusti Garden. As the name of the Piazza implies, this entire area of the city was once an island. Along what today is called Via dell’Interrato dell’Acqua Morta (the Underground Water Way), a channel off the Adige River once flowed. In the days of the Giusti Counts, the sound of the river’s flowing water was heard from within their beautiful garden.

 

 

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