Vanni Torrigiani apologized for his attire. He was dressed as a gardener, not as one of the owners of the largest private garden in a city in Europe. He had been digging in the soil. HIs pants were dirty. Vanni was the perfect person to guide us around the garden.
On an ordinary street in Florence is Giardino Torrigiani, a 17-acre garden in the middle of Florence. Raffaello Torrigiani purchased the property in 1531 as an orchard. Vanni’s great, great, grandfather (I lost count), the Marchese Pietro Torrigiani began to build an English romantic garden in the nineteenth century.
The Giardino Torrigiani is a metaphor for Vanni’s own life. He was trained as a lawyer and gave it up to become a gardener: to save the garden, to preserve its heritage for future generations. “The garden teaches you how to live your life.” I was in total agreement.
Vanni grew up in the garden. And he still lives inside its gates, as do many of his siblings, parents and cousins. Giardino Torrigiani is a family affair. As we walked around the garden, Vanni described the many features and follies of the garden that were his playground as a child. The “hippodrome” seen in the drawing below, was his soccer field.
In the 80’s, Vanni’s father kept the garden financially solvent by renting out plants to hotels, restaurants and special events. The financial crisis in Italy ended all that. Vanni has to find another way. He is offering yoga classes, teaching children vegetable gardening, building a solar greenhouse and cultivating an internship program at horticulture schools.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
In 1716 the first meeting of the Botanical Society was held at the garden. The records of the time, recorded 5500 plants in pots and 13,000 plants in soil. This legacy is reflected in many species of trees that still exist: a 400 year old Ginkgo bibloa and surprisingly a Sequoia.