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Touring the Gardens at La Foce

Marta Rojas

La Foce gardens, September 2002

We took a tour of the garden in October 2001. The garden is very nice with wonderful views out over the valley and a great view of the famous cypress lined road. Unfortunately for us, it was quite hazy throughout the area so the views were limited.

We began our drive to the garden from the Chianti area, stopping to see Sant'Antimo Abbey in the early morning, visiting Montalcino around noon and arriving at La Foce right at 3:00pm. But we couldn't find it. We drove past it the first time and then down a road which went along side the walls. My husband, the navigator, wisely suggested that it must be inside the walls. We just couldn't locate the entrance. There was a classic group of older Italians standing near one of the gates and we stopped and asked them. Giardino? They pointed at the gates and there magically appeared a woman, the tour guide leading the 3:00pm tour. She said the entrance was on the other side and to come back for the 4:00pm tour.

La Foce seemed to us to be just an intersection along the road. Off to the south, was a driveway up to a courtyard. Follow the signs for wine and oil sales and you will find the parking area. The office is off the courtyard which is through an arch from the parking area.

We returned a short time before 4:00pm and we were able to get tickets easily. This was mid-October. The tour takes just under a hour.

View from La Foce gardens

The garden grew in phases between 1924 and 1939. The fountain garden from 1924 is the first of several terraced rooms and one of my favorites. Lots of lemon, boxwood, roses and wisteria. It would be beautiful in the spring. The second room. completed in 1933, has a terrace with a full panorama of the valley. On a clear day, one is supposed to be able to see Monte Amiata. Off to the side is a more Mediterranean style garden compared with the more formal Italian garden style of the other rooms. There is also a woodland path that leads to Origo's young son's gravesite. It has overgrown and the guide asked us to not go to the gravesite.

The guide was very knowledgeable in the history of the garden, family, house and plants. She also spoke wonderful English. In fact, everyone on our tour was from the US or England.

The brochure does not indicate whether they take reservations. It does mention that they will organize a tour on different days for large groups. They also have restored farmhouses on the estate that can be rented.

It took us about 2 hours to return to Castellina in Chianti.

A clear day in Spring and this would be an outstanding destination. But it is also nice any time of the year, especially for plant and garden lovers.

Pauline's Notes

Steve and I toured the La Foce gardens with Robert from Santa Monica and his friends in September 2002. There was a large crowd for the 3pm tour but we got tickets. There was another tour at 4pm. We were there on a clear, sunny day and the views were lovely. The garden was much smaller than I was expecting, but it was beautiful.

You can rent villas or apartments by the week on the La Foce estate. This is a beautiful place to stay and a good base for a week or two in this part of Tuscany.

Directions from Pienza

From the main road that goes from San Quirico d'Orcia to Pienza to Montepulciano, going east, turn right at Pienza (the main road jogs to the left at the town walls, and you make a right so the town walls are on your right). Follow this road around and then under Pienza. It then heads downhill, south from Pienza. At the first main intersection, turn left in the direction of Chianciano Terme (not towards Bagno Vignoni). Next you come to a more major road. Again go left in the direction of Chianciano Terme. In a few miles, you will see the famous Cypress lined road on your left just before you get to La Foce.

La Foce is easily missed; it is a large villa on your right at a intersection of the road you are on and a dirt road. The dirt road takes you into the La Foce estate. To get to the villa and gardens, go a bit further on the main road. On your right, you will see signs for the offices and a shop. There is a driveway up through gates and a parking lot.

Resources

Read Stew's Rave about La Foce and La Porta.

www.lafoce.com: La Foce, about the gardens and the vacation rentals on the estate.

Slow Travel Photos: Photos of the La Foce Gardens

La Foce: A Garden and Landscape in Tuscany (Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture), by Benedetta Origo, Laurie Olin, John Dixon Hunt, Morna Livingston, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001
A beautiful picture book about the La Foce gardens.

Order from Amazon


Marta Rojas lives in the Pacific Northwest. Marta Rojas 2002
Photos by Pauline Kenny.

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