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Villa Gamberaia
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14 - 19 of 26 reviews
Reviewed October 8, 2011

We loved touring the gardens and enjoyed the views over the Tuscan countryside and hope on our next visit to be able to tour the Villa. We recommended the gardens to friends in 2010 and they were equally impressed.

Stayed: August 2011, traveled as a couple
11  Thank zanzare-tigre
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 27, 2007

I have just returned to America from 7 days at Villa Gamberaia and it was not near enough. I am not even sure how to describe Villa Gamberaia other than to say that I communed with its gardens and fell in love with this place. I came with my wife and yound children, a girl of 5 and a boy of 8, and our long-time babysitter. On our first trip to Italy, we decided to spend most of our time in Tuscany and saw Villa Gamberaia as a place we might really enjoy. We do not normally spend $500/night on lodgings, especially not for a lengthy stay but we thought it might be worthwhile. Now having been there, I would have spent much more.

Villa Gamberaia is centered now on the main villa, first built in the 1600s and substantially rebuilt after the Nazis burnt it down in an attempt to keep their maps and warplans from the advancing allied armies. Running alongside the main villa is a "bowling lawn" that must be a mile long. Our accommodations were situated in front of the main Villa in a building that, 600 years prior, housed indoor tennis courts but which now is converted into two-story homes. We had about 1600 s.f. of house in which to live, eat and sleep. My photos of the interior were too large to post. We had three bedrooms, three full baths, a dining room, living area and full kitchen. Our home was well furnished. The owner has spared no expense from quality fixtures and furniture to modern bathrooms and bedrooms. The views from each and every window were breathtaking. A generous gift basket greeted us upon arrival. Thoughtfulness and courtesy met us throughout our stay. Housekeeping was provided twice during our visit and the kitchen was fully stocked including some essential foods and drink to get us started. I had no complains regarding our accommodations. We were the only guests on the property having stayed at he beginning of April, during Easter. It was in the 40s to 60s at night and 60s to 70s during the days.

While the accommodations were very nice, I would have been just as happy in a tent so long as I was closer to the gardens. This is a place of acres of greenery, arranged just perfectly to appeal to all of your senses. Nothing seemed jarring or out of place. The greenery, a paucity of color and great stonework and statuary all seemed perfectly positioned to meld with one's innate sense of beauty and proportion. It was my first time being in a garden like this, having the leisure to really appreciate what was there. I am changed by Gamberaia. I cannot adequately describe in words how these gardens affected me. I think you can only experience it by and for yourself. It is maybe a bit like a moment in a museum when you see an absolutely stunning painting or statue and where you pause there, on that art, drinking it in and connecting; one marvelous difference being that you wake up with it every day and can spend as much time as you allow yourself. I made sure that I spent some alone-time in those gardens each morning and each night. Running around and playing with my kids was great but being alone in the gardens was inspiring.

Imagine yourself, in the middle of the night, at the "Nymphaeum," a rock alcove with carved reliefs of Pan and other figures built over 600 years ago. In front of the alcove is a grassy stage surounded by benches built into rock walls with intricate carvings. Great mystery attaches to each place in the gardens. Time has erased the memory of what once happened in the nymphaeum but I could imagine great conversation, servants with goblets and finger food, perhaps a stage of actors or maybe something more elicit but there I was, a part of the story, sitting next to a candle I had carried out from my bedroom just 50 yards away. Pretty cool.

This is a place for great romance but it was also perfect for our young children. Because the Villa is secured by towering wrought iron gates and hedges, the kids were able to run free and hide and seek and explore. They had a hard time the first day trying to get by without constant stimulation like had in the cities but they came to love the freedom of movement and the sense of age and mystery.

The Villa itself is on the top of a mountain overlooking Florence. From the property, you can clearly see Il Duomo, the great cathedral and all the rooftops of Firenze. The Villa is in a town called Settignano. Were it up to me alone, I could have stayed at the Villa the entire time, heading into Settignano, a 10-minute walk from the front gate, for dinner or gelato. Still, we did travel into Florence many times and enjoyed that as well. One time, my son and I took a 2-hour walk and made it all the way to Florence. It was a great walk, one I will never forget. I am still astounded he did not give out.

There are very good trattorias (informal but very good dining) and some very good restaurants (finer dining) in Settignano, some within walking distance. There is a small but servicable market and, importantly, a good gelataria and an equally good coffee house. Don't miss a trip to the Settignano cemetary while you are there. The cemetary has an ordinary grass and dirt floor but seems carpeted with the freshest and brightest flowers on almost every grave and niche. There is a nunnery and church which we did not get to but which is also supposed to be worthwhile.

So long as you stick to the main route, the most direct from the Villa into the Settignano town center and beyond to Florence, you will be fine driving; otherwise you will regret not buying that extra insurance as ancient rock walls scrape the paint and mirrors off your car. You literally must fold your mirrors in at many points and tell the kids to keep their hands inside the car. I still cannot believe how generous my car rental agency was when I returned the car with gashes down one side.

The cost of our accommodations was about $550/night, expensive to be sure but if you can at all swing this, even if it means doing less during your trip, you will be so glad you did. If you do not stay in the main Villa, make sure you ask Andy, the Villa manager, to take you for a tour before you leave. Do not expect gilded Medici-like opulance. Expect elegant and simple but with absolutely extraordinary views. Take your camera to take snapshots of the Modern Garden from the balcony. This is the photograph that graces many a book on the world's greatest gardens.

Make sure you walk through the entire property, not just the Modern Gardens. There are two gardens, called the "Artificial Woods," which turned out to be the most natural part of the property. By artificial, they mean only the sense of being in real woods or forest as everything is quite real and the growth is kept more natural than the well-coiffed modern gardens. Climb the stairs and sit in the Cabinet, a special place carved of stone and replete with niches and statuary. Walk through the "Lemon House," where lemon trees grow and wait to the day following Easter when they are removed and placed throughout the gardens in large pots. Make time for Gamberaia in your trip. It is not just your lodgings. It is a destination which also happens to be a place to unpack your clothes and sleep.

  • Stayed: April 2007, traveled with family
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21  Thank Scottness_Monster
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 2, 2017
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  • Stayed: October 2017, traveled with family
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 8, 2017
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Stayed: May 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 6, 2016
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Stayed: December 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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