Descrizione immagine

il giardino la ferriera

La storia

Un giardino creato intorno a una ferriera del XV secolo, dove i colori e le forme delle piante che popolano la campagna maremmana, sughere,lecci, cipressi, pini, si mescolano con delicate essenze dai svariati colori e profumi come peonie, gelsomini, ortensie, hibiscus, pelargoni profumati, salvie. Ma la vastissima quantità di rose, collezionate in quarant’anni, rappresenta l’unicità del giardino dove si è lavorato incessantemente alla ricerca di ciò che non è possibile, cioè la perfezione. Un giardino iniziato nel 1968, togliendo tonnellate di sassi da un terreno allora solo frequentato da pecore e chiudendolo da robuste cortine verdi per proteggerlo dai venti di tramontana. E poi continuato escogitando angoli adatti ad ospitare le piante che provenivano da molte parti del mondo, assecondando i gusti di cacciatrice di piante della proprietaria. Dai Solanum del Perù, agli Edychium del Brasile, dagli Schinus del Kenia alla Parkinsonia dello Yemen. Il prato sotto alla pineta rappresenta, per la Maremma, un unicum assai raro, bordato da una collezione di Hydrangee bianche di varie specie.

Visite accompagnate su appuntamento nel mese di maggio. Per gruppi si possono organizzare varie comodità.

Il giardino si trova a 1 Km di distanza dal Giardino dei Tarocchi di Niki de Saint-Phalle.


Ferriera means ‘foundry’ and until 1860 La Ferriera was one of the most important iron foundries in Tuscany. The iron master was a wealthy man and he built a handsome house for himself above the foundry. A plaque on the wall of the old chapel commemorates his sudden death in a carriage accident, only two years after the foundry was closed. La Ferriera was used as a hunting lodge for a short period, but by the time Contessa Giuppi Pietromarchi stumbled across the property in 1967 the house had been empty for two decades. The building was virtually derelict. Its back door opened onto a pigsty and an abandoned olive grove. A stand of mature stone pines (Pinus pinea) grew on level ground between the house and the foundry buildings.



When Giuppi first saw La Ferriera she already had three small sons and was expecting her fourth. Count Antonello Pietromarchi, a diplomat, was working in Washington and Giuppi had returned to Italy to find a house where their growing family might spend each summer. Few people would have considered the derelict house and bleak industrial buildings for such a role, but Giuppi had vision. She looked at the olive grove and the orderly rows of stone pines and saw the bones of a garden. Giuppi describes gardening as ‘a hereditary disease’, capable of lying dormant for generations before suddenly breaking out. It comes as no surprise to learn that she comes from a long line of nurserymen. The gardening gene was first apparent in her grandfather, who founded Sgaravatti, a nursery in Saonara near Padua. The business was enormously successful. It passed from generation to generation and over the years Sgaravatti  opened nurseries all over Italy. Little wonder then that Giuppi’s father was her first visitor after she bought La Ferriera. ‘When he saw the place, the derelict house, the olives and the pines’ Giuppi recalls, he laughed and said, ‘well, at least you can set the value of the wood against all the money you’ve paid.’ The garden became their joint project. La Ferriera is very close to the coast and her father began by planting cypresses and pines along the garden boundary to shelter it from sea winds. He also planted a sturdy line of eucalyptus against the cold wind that blows from the north. More than four decades have passed since these preliminary preparations were made and on a warm morning in early summer, sunlight illuminates the high canopy of the pines in front of the house. It is here, among their deeply fissured trunks, that Giuppi’s genetically transmitted skills are first apparent. Lawns are difficult to manage in a Mediterranean climate unless you are content to plant a coarse resistant grass, and to keep your shoes on at all times, for few people have feet hard enough to enjoy the knife-like texture of a truly drought resistant grass.  Beneath the pines, however, the grass is as soft as down and as green as an English lawn nourished by the drizzle of a long summer. This effect is not easily achieved. Each year in March the existing lawn is spread with a fine mix of soil and grass seed. April usually brings rain to La Ferriera and the seed germinates and begins to grow. Almost immediately the mowing regime begins. The grass is cut weekly in converse directions, a system that seems to increase its vigour. The perfect green carpet is broken only at the far end of the lawn, where Giuppi’s dogs always congregate before leaping joyfully off the stone steps and into the lower garden.

In the lower garden the air is laden with the scent of ‘Cecile Brunner’, the rose that grows over the cupola at the centre of the garden and Rosa ‘Félicité et Perpetué’ that smothers the pergolas to either side of the steps. A tiny battered pedal car is parked in the shade of the cupola, and children’s bikes lie scattered among the trees. This is no show garden. It has evolved to give pleasure to three generations of the Pietromarchi family – Giuppi and Antonello, their children and numerous grandchildren. In the early years of owning the house Antonello Pietromarchi’s successful diplomatic career took them to seven different countries. The family could only return to Italy occasionally, ‘but this was always the children’s home’ Giuppi recalls, ‘and it was very important for them because we were travelling all the time.’ Today the house is still sleeping in the deep shade of the pines. All night the garden was a concert hall for nightingales and the tiny scops owl, but now it is silent. As the morning lengthens the family emerge, settling in one of a series of outdoor rooms that Giuppi has created close to the house. The dogs, who have their own packed agenda, weave about among them. The garden gradually absorbs children who disappear into the depths of it, to be seen again only in the distance, flashing between trees, pursued by dogs, racing their bikes on level ground below the olive grove and scaling the ladder to the magnificent tree house that Giuppi has just made among the branches of a mulberry. In summer they will be able to reach out of the windows to pick the fruit that is already forming on its branches.

When Giuppi first began to garden at La Ferriera she planted roses to scale the gnarled and pitted trunks of the trees in the olive grove. The effect of the flowers among a silver sheen of leaves was remarkably beautiful, but over the years she began to worry about the impact they were having on the trees. ‘The olives disliked the amount of water I was having to give the roses’ she explains, ‘and they are such an important part of the garden that I have to put their health above all else’. Now she has given the roses other structures to climb. At they top of the olive grove they grow from mown grass, but on the lower slope she has allowed the grass to grow long to encourage wild gladioli to spread, covering the hillside with their magenta spires in spring. In late summer agapanthus form a deep blue lake among the olives higher up the slope.

The sheer effort of rose growing in central Italy is awesome, and it is rare to see roses growing as well as they do at La Ferriera. She adds new roses to her collection each year, and over the decades she has perfected a system for looking after them. She begins with a big hole and lines the bottom with stones to ensure drainage. Giuppi gardens on clay – a good start for rose growing – but in this climate clay soils soon compact, becoming impenetrable to even the most determined roots. The battle to maintain and improve the quality of the soil is relentless. She adds enormous amounts of manure and compost before planting. Many years ago she visited Helen Dillon’s garden in Dublin, and it was from her that she learned to replace part of the soil around her roses every year. Giuppi has spent many years experimenting to find roses capable of resisting the heat of midsummer. China and noisette roses have proved the most resilient, but even they are eventually exhausted by the intensity of life at La Ferriera – ‘and then’ Giuppi says ‘it’s better if they just close their eyes and die’.

During her early years at La Ferriera, Giuppi was able to garden only when the family returned to Italy for holidays from postings abroad. Over time she developed a habit of shaping the garden to reflect the different phases in her life. The herb garden – a small, walled cubicle beyond the olive grove – encapsulates happy memories of a period spent in Holland. Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ grows just inside the door, close to a Delft-blue bench that was made for Giuppi in Holland. Mint, thyme and lavender carpet the ground. Another significant period of her life was spent in Morocco, and in 1987 she published Maroc en fleurs, a Moroccan flora. She has written her Moroccan experience into the garden as well, using many different varieties of datura and planting a Cestrum nocturnum to fill the air near the house with scent on summer nights. She has belonged to IDS (the International Dendrology Society) for many years, and also travels widely with fellow IDS members. Two years ago they visited Chile and Giuppi shows me the memento of that journey – a tiny arucaria grown from seed.

La Ferriera may encapsulate memories from the past but these days Giuppi’s main concern is the future of the garden. ‘I don’t want to have spent my life in a garden that will be ruined six months after my death’ she says. ‘You can’t just say après moi le deluge. You have to leave written instructions about the management of the garden.’ Giuppi is a writer with three books under her belt. She has it in mind now to write about running the garden after she is gone. ‘I want to write a practical book’ she says, ‘a book that my children can refer to when they want to know what to do in the garden’. For now she works in the garden every day alongside Federico, a young gardener who she has trained. He delighted her recently by saying ‘do you know why that rose isn’t flowering this year? It’s because she’s angry.’ Giuppi was intrigued. What could have enraged her rose so much? ‘It was me’ Federico said, ‘I tied her up too tightly.’ Mission accomplished. Federico has begun to empathise with the roses just as Giuppi does.




Via Pescia Fiorentina 9A, 58011 Capalbio, (GR) ITALIA


SS1 Aurelia km 124,5  uscita Chiarone, Pescia Fiorentina


Il giardino si trova a 1 Km dal Giardino dei Tarocchi di Niki de Saint Phalle.


Visite accompagnate su appuntamento nel mese di Maggio.


Per gruppi si possono organizzare varie comodità.


TEL: +39 0564 895 046