Garden of Ninfa, Italy.

A triumphal synthesis of humanity’s imagination and nature’s richness 

The bewitching Garden of Ninfa (Giardini di Ninfa) is set amongst the ruins of a medieval town and is located 70 kilometres southeast from Rome in the territory of Cisterna di Latina within the central Italian region of Lazio.

Described by many as the most romantic garden in the world, the origins of Ninfa go back to Roman times and are immersed in myth. Tradition tells that Ninfa was named after a temple consecrated to the water divinities, nymphs, the locals believed occupied the natural springs and gentle flowing river that meanders through the verdant landscape. 

Prior to developing into a garden of rare beauty, Ninfa was a small town of strategic importance and political influence. From the 8th century, travellers traversed the route through Ninfa to get from Rome to Naples and when the Appian Way (Via Appian) was impossible to traverse because of flooding rains.

In 1159, Cardinal Rolando Bandinelli was consecrated at Ninfa as Pope Alexander III. He was inaugurated at the Church of Santa Maria, whose evocative remnants are visible today.

The distinguished Caetani family, who had ties with the papacy, took control of Ninfa in the 13th century, buying out local proprietors and titleholders.

During the papacy crises, known as the Great Schism (circa 1378), anti-pope factions razed Ninfa to the ground. Never to be rebuilt, the town lay deserted for several centuries, mainly because of the untamed growth of the nearby marshland, a breeding ground for malaria. 

I asked, amazed, what that most puzzling great garland of flowers, that mysterious green ring, could be. “Nympha, Nympha,” said our host. Nympha! then that is the Pompeii of the Middle Ages, buried in the marshes – that city of the dead, ghostly, silent. 

Ferdinand Gregorovius German Historian – when he first viewed Ninfa from the hilltop town of Norma in 1852

Garden of Ninfa. Lazio. Italy.
View of the serene waters of the Ninfa river and the Ponte Romano (Roman Bridge). Town on top of the hill is Norma. Garden of Ninfa. Lazio. Italy.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, members of the noble Caetani family, lovers of botany, created some foundations of the garden seen today.

The garden remained abandoned until the 19th century, when visionary members of the Caetani family rolled up their sleeves and began the arduous process of regeneration and restoration. The legacy of their energy, boldness and foresight endures today.

The garden, a botanical, wildlife and spiritual sanctuary, spreads over 8 hectares (20 acres). Abundant in faunae and native and exotic flora, the garden has over 10000 species of plants, 152 species of birds and a rich variety of fauna that inhabit the lake and river.

The leafy winding pathways are a softened with dappled light and burst with ethereal vistas. The paths unite all parts of the garden and gently pull you to explore the curious and ghostly ruins of the medieval towers, walls and churches, all of which are romantically cloaked with plants such as climbing roses, ivy and scented jasmine.

Several ornate bridges span the serene river named Ninfa, as it serenely drifts in its progress through the lush landscape. And the 12th-century castle and tower cast mirror like impressions on the small lake they border.

The garden of Ninfa is the visionary fusion of many generations of the Italian, English and American-born members of the family. A tour de force of man and nature, Ninfa is a beguiling union of humanity’s creativity and the grandeur and order of nature.

Note: Ferdinand Gregorovius was a German historian who specialized in the medieval history of Rome. He is best known for Wanderjahre in Italien (Years of Wandering in Italy), his account of his Italian travels in the 1850s.

Click to view the complete Ninfa image gallery.

All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Monet and I, inspired by the masterpiece of nature.

What does an obscure photographer stuck in the concrete landscape of an Australian suburb and Claude Monet, a French impressionist master, have in common?… the love for nature, gardening, flowers and the symphonies of colours.

‘The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.’ – Claude Monet

Born on 14 November 1840, Claude Monet is one of the most significant, influential and universally celebrated figures in the history of Art. Monet was a founder of French Impressionist painting (late 1800s) which focused on emotions, form and changing light and movement rather than realism. 

Impression, Sunrise, a most splendid painting by Monet, is credited to inspiring the name of the impressionist movement.

Monet is perhaps most famous for his monumental series of oil paintings depicting water lilies, serene gardens, and Japanese footbridges. Monet’s water lily series was painted on his property in the village of Giverny, in northern France, where he lived his final 43 years from 1883 to his death on 5 December 1926. 

Throughout his life, Monet grew flowers and cherished gardening and being outdoors, at one with nature. In his later years, specifically during his life at Giverny, he became a zealous student of botany.

Monet was the architect and visionary of the extensive and splendid landscaped gardens (five acres of flowerbeds and water-lily ponds) which became the subjects of some of his famous masterpieces. 

‘My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.’ – Claude Monet

To achieve his grand vision, he devoted himself to flower gardening and employed several gardeners for additional support. He sourced and imported plants, some rare, from around the world including irises, daises, nasturtiums peonies, delphiniums, rhododendrons, Oriental poppies, asters and many species of sunflowers and the water lilies for his famous lily pond. 

Floral dreams
Multiple exposure of Osteospermums (African daisy) flowers in which I layered many exposures to create a single image in-camera.

Monet didn’t let finances impede attaining his dream, and he said, “All my money goes into my garden,” but also: “I am in raptures.” 

Today Monet’s house and gardens attract over half a million visitors each year, testament to his visionary brilliance. It was Monet’s love of plants and flowers and not painting that inspired him to transform his property into an oasis. 

And as Monet, I created my garden beds purely for the pure joy, inspiration, and companionship that plants and flowers provide. Graceful, enchanting and full of zest, flowers with all their eccentricities and richness of colours never cannot captivate the senses. As with Monet, I can’t imagine life without being surrounded by nature. 

‘I must have flowers, always, and always.’ – Claude Monet.

Images included in this post (and found in my image gallery) were captured in my garden. I concentrated on my collection of showy merry African daisies (Osteospermum) of which I clearly adore. The scientific name is developed from the Greek osteon (bone) and Latin spermum (seed). 

As homage to Monet, several of the photographs are impressionistic in style, with a dreamy soft, almost defocused effect, gushing with vibrant colours.

I used the multiple exposure photographic technique, also known as Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). I superimposed nine exposures to create a single image in camera. I then converted raw files into jpegs with very minor basic adjustments in Photoshop.

Official website of Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny.

Claude Monet Quotes

‘Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.’

‘My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature” “I am good at only two things, and those are gardening and painting.’

‘My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.’

Click here to view the full African Daisy image gallery.

 All images, text and content are copyright Steven Sklifas.

Floral dreams
Multiple exposure of Osteospermums (African daisy) flowers in which I layered many exposures to create a single image in-camera.