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.
“Take what you need; it’s here to be used!” It sounded sacrilegious, but Alessandra Vinciguerra, horticulturist of the American Academy in Rome, was urging me to cut flowers on the newly restored academy grounds. Once I realized that she meant what she said, it struck me that her generosity came from the heart of the century-old institution that she serves.