Best Hotel Gardens: Palazzo Parisi

Best Hotel Gardens: Palazzo Parisi

January 4, 2010
Photo by: Courtesy The Upper House

London-based landscape designer Arabella Lennox-Boyd grew up in a 16th-century fortress north of Rome, where her family farmed, raised chickens and tended thousands of olive trees. But while the ancient site boasted breathtaking views of the countryside, it never really had a proper garden — until now. Over the past two decades, Lennox-Boyd has restored a portion of her childhood home and opened it up to visitors as Palazzo Parisi, an elegantly laid-back summer rental. Indoors, she redecorated most of the house, including seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, by mixing old and new. Outside, she added comfortable seating, shady terraces, an infinity-edge swimming pool and plantings that reflect both the simplicity and sophistication that have earned her multiple awards at the Chelsea Flower Show. Guests have the run of the place from the end of May through October and are invited to find their own leisurely way around the four-acre garden. Some will want to spend time reading or snoozing among the potted jasmine and geraniums on the loggia that wraps around the building. Others will be eager to venture out on the new terraces — one paved in brick and pebblework and another carpeted in grass — to take in the drifts of dark red ‘Skyrocket’ (Wilhelm) roses and scented pale-blue irises. Inquisitive guests might be drawn to the 18th-century chapel downhill, situated past olive trees that were dug up and replanted in a formal grid and wildflowers such as cosmos, bachelor’s buttons and poppies. The most energetic will plunge into the pool, surrounded by lavender, rosemary, salvia and the native grass Ampelodesmos mauritanicus. No matter where the visitor ends up, though, it’s possible to hear the nightingales sing and watch fireflies light up the night.

DESIGN OBJECTIVE: “Something romantic and visually attractive but reflecting the character of the place. I also wanted to keep it simple as I have only one wonderful gardener,” says Lennox-Boyd.

INSIDER’S TIP: “If you walk down the hill below the church and look at the wildflowers, you’ll see about 10 different orchids. The well-known plantsman Roy Lancaster and I found them growing there.” 

BEST SOUVENIR: “The olives are organic. We harvest in November and have our olives pressed nearby. Guests can buy the oil bottled at the farm.”