IF THERE'S A COUNTRY where that most magical cliché, the secret garden, comes to life, it must be Italy. Just go for a stroll in the lanes of cities such as Rome, Florence, Venice and even the less-photogenic Milan and if you look hard enough, you'll find that behind unassuming facades often lies a stunning maze of lush greenery and blooming flowers. Unlike the grander and more manicured gardens of cities such as Paris or London – think the Tuileries or Hampstead Heath's Hill Gardens – Italy is a place of hidden charms, where even the ultimate Renaissance garden, the Boboli in Florence, is hidden behind the imposing Palazzo Pitti in the city's Oltrarno neighbourhood.
It was a visit to that same pocket of green in the capital of the Italian Renaissance that spurred Lucia Silvestri, Bulgari's creative director, to design an entire collection – Giardini Italiani – inspired by Italian Renaissance gardens. “Boboli was the first place we visited to find some inspiration,” says Silvestri at the launch in Florence in June. “That was the starting point for the collection. We breathed the air of Florence, its nature, but also the Renaissance, and Florence is the symbol of it. The journey began here a year ago; when we thought of gardens, the first place that came to mind was Tuscany and we came here, and then to Siena and Lucca.”
Bulgari has always drawn inspiration from nature, especially from flowers and the sea, but with the Giardini Italiani collection Silvestri and her team also looked at elements such as architectural and geometric forms. You'll find plenty of pieces evoking the petals of a delicate daisy or the sinewy branches of clinging ivy, but even more striking are the linear forms of a pair of earrings inspired by the evergreen hedgerows typical of Renaissance gardens or a pendant recalling the stone fountains that adorn them.
Silvestri also likes to point out that the art of gardening is not that different from her own craft. “Although gardens are a gift of nature, they're actually man made,” she says. “You have the same creativity in jewellery and in gardening; they're two arts that are very similar. If you think about it, the flower and the plants represent the stones and the jeweller the gardener, while the lawn is like a pavé. Like a gardener sees his flowers and trees grow and change, jewellers see the stones become beautiful objects. As a creative director, I see the jewel as it comes to life from the seed, which is the stone around which we develop the jewel.”
When pressed to name some of the most memorable places she set her eyes upon during her travels through Tuscany, Silvestri reveals that what really struck her were the private properties. “There are private ones that I can't mention but that are absolutely and unexpectedly amazing,” she says. “You'd never think that there would be such well-kept and well-decorated private gardens all over Italy.” A place that's likely to be high on that list is Villa Le Rose, a 15thcentury estate near Florence, where the images accompanying this story were taken to celebrate a collection that displays the astounding skills of Bulgari ateliers, and the ingenious ways nature and man come together to bear the simple and yet elusive gift of true beauty.
PHOTOGRAPHY MARCO RUSSO
STYLING MASSIMO RUSSO
MAKE-UP AND HAIR GIULIA CRESCI
MODEL VANESSA BERTI
LOCATION VILLA LE ROSE, FLORENCE