Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Carla Fineschi Botanical Rose Garden, Cavriglia

Eight Thousand Different Roses

 "Come into my garden. 
I would like my roses to see you.” 

These words, by Richard Sheridan, the Irish-born eighteenth-century dramatist and politician,
are engraved in a marble plaque set in the stone wall surrounding the house at the  
Roseto Botanico Carla Fineschi.  
A delightful invitation to all who visit.

Roseto di Cavriglia, now called Roseto Botanico Carla Fineschi in memory of the founder's wife

The Rose Garden at Cavriglia in the province of Arezzo, just outside the boundary of Chianti, is a remarkable testimony to one man's lifelong passion and dedication. The garden was founded in 1967 by Professor Gianfranco Fineschi who taught medicine at the Catholic University in Rome.  

He was something of a local legend. In the words of someone who met him:
"Fineschi was a little like Galileo in that he was a scholar, humble, empirical, unaffected, practical and well connected at every level of Italian culture and society. His interests numbered four: orthopedics, roses, sport (meaning soccer) and classical music. 

"He was very close to John Paul II, on whom he operated twice ... including when [John Paul] was shot.  He always wore and treasured a silver crucifix that was a gift from JPII.  His love of roses manifested itself in collecting, cultivation, breeding and literature. ... 

"His histories and descriptions were eloquent, almost lyrical, ... we listened in wonder to him for several hours with him as devoted to us as we to him.  I especially remember his historical account of yellow roses, which did not appear in the West until the beginning of the 20th century when Chinese species were crossed with plants in the West.  Every yellow rose has Chinese parentage.

"I cannot say much about his love of sport and classical music except that he was the head of the classical music society in Figline for nearly fifty years. ...

"The railroad car you see [at the Rose Garden] was meant to be a rose book library.  The car and track on which it sits were a gift of gratitude from the head of the Ferrovia dello Stato on whom he had successfuly operated.  The train chuffed all the way to his house on tracks that were later removed. ... 

"He corresponded with gardens all over the world; historical gardens, like those of the National Trust, often asked him to supply cuttings of unavailable species. The old retainers who work at the garden have either known or worked with Fineschi for most of their lives.  And the animals.... The cats and dogs were all strays that he welcomed, fed and cared for."

A 'living museum', as the garden's brochure states, the rose garden boasts up to 8000 different varieties (the estimate of the number varies, but there is no doubt that it is an enormous collection).

The roses are organized and displayed according to a strictly scientific classification. The best description of this venture, from the botanical and scientific point of view, is to be found on the site of the Regione Toscana Cultura, which I quote:

"The botanical rose garden of Cavriglia is a place of rare beauty, containing one of the largest collections of roses used for purposes of study and research. It is one of the few private gardens of such a size to be found anywhere in the world. 

"The layout of the rose garden follows traditional botanical structure exactly, with the roses planted in separate spaces according to their subdivision into species, sub-species and hybrids. Each plant is marked with a tag giving basic details (the botanical name, the year it was introduced into Europe, and whether or not it can engender hybrids). This rose garden contains some 7,000 varieties of unique plants, some of which were once believed to be extinct, and it would be no exaggeration to say that the sheer quantity to be found here provides a complete history of the rose along with all its cultural and scientific associations. ...

"Now the hub of a busy programme of cultural and scientific activities, the garden works closely with universities and botanical institutions around the world, and is fast turning into a fully-fledged, living botanical laboratory, of immense interest to botanists everywhere."  



For the keen rose gardener or the simply curious, the garden is an astonishingly rich treasure trove. The rose garden really merits several visits during the flowering season: early, to enjoy the old roses which flower only once; in the middle to enjoy the hybrids and many others and later to admire the climbers and late flowerers. The organizers even recommends returning in autumn for the spectacle of the rosehips.

 The Roseto Botanico Carla Fineschi is open daily from the first Sunday in May until the last Sunday in June from 9 to 19. A contribution of 6 euros is kindly requested on entry. Which seems a modest amount to help maintain such a wonder.

Thanks again are due to Explicit for the biographical details about Professor Fineschi

the gardens are populated by cats, dogs and peacocks; the cats and dogs were strays that Professor Fineschi welcomed and cared for.


  1. This is a truly superb photographic record for rose-lovers, like me.

  2. Hello,

    Love your pictures - very beautiful! Could I use the first photo (Roseto di Cavriglia, now called Roseto Botanico Carla Fineschi in memory of the founder's wife) in my book about roses with link to your blog?
    Thank you very much,

  3. Hello Iryna, I would be delighted if you used the photo and look forward to news about your book. Leitha.

  4. How beautiful! I would love to see this treasure trove - the idea of visiting at several different times of year is wonderful.


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