This unusual itinerary kicks off from the historic centre of Città di Castello where the Pinacoteca comunale in the Vitelli alla Cannoniera Building maintains a charming example of an Italian garden, with box hedges that outline flower beds, to evoke what was one time known as the ‘Garden Palace’. The itinerary continues towards another garden connected to the Vitelli family, that of Palazzo di Sant’Egidio, once brought to life by fountains with water features, plants of rare fruit and animals. From here you reach the Collezione Tessile di “Tela Umbra” that, in the section dedicated to the schools of Montesca and Rovigliano, illustrates the interest that Alice and Leopoldo Franchetti had in botany and teaching little ones skills related to agriculture.
From “Tela Umbra” you can’t miss Villa Montesca, which stands a little above Città di Castello along the road which leads to Monte Santa Maria Tiberina. The Villa library preserves many of the botanical texts collected by the Barons, whilst in the park you can appreciate the many arboreal plant varieties purposely obtained by the Franchetti’s from all over the world.
Again in Città di Castello you can visit the Centro delle Tradizioni Popolari di Garavelle where the artefacts recount life in the countryside and the main types of cultivation. The centre was founded by Livio Dalla Ragione to whom an extremely important enterprise for the Alta Valle del Tevere area is linked: the Fondazione Archeologia Arborea of San Lorenzo of Lerchi that, born more than thirty years ago out of the passion that Livio had, still continues his work even today, thanks to the competence and determination of his daughter Isabella. The Foundation is intended to recover ancient fruit plants present since ancient times in the Alta Valle del Tevere area. Over time an orchard-collection of approximately 500 specimens of different species in 150 different varieties has been created in which the plants, cultivated with traditional methods, are placed in an environment which recovers and restores the harmony and the charm of an agricultural landscape of ancient wisdom.
Heading towards San Giustino, to the garden at Castello Bufalini that was created in the eighteenth century by the architect and painter Giovanni Ventura Borghesi: a magnificent Italian garden full of flowers, fruit and vegetables, irrigated by a complex water system with fish ponds, fountains and water features, created by Florentine fountain makers, with spaces with their own typographic features such as the voltabotte in bay leaf and vibernum for walks, the rose garden with fragrant roses deriving from ancient varieties, the secret garden, the lemon grove, and the maze. A walkway from the castle allowed you to get to Parco Roccolo, a large park with conifer trees and oak trees created for the private leisure of the Bufalini’s and sold to the council in the 80s. Turning around, towards Celalba you get to Villa Graziani, with its charming Italian garden that descends towards the valley, the rose garden and the big holm oak tree park. From the portico of the Villa, it’s impossible not to think of the words of Plinio and his description of the Alta Valle del Tevere area: “imagine an immense amphitheatre and how nature alone can create it”.