dan pearson studio

Torrecchia Vecchia




























The place

Torrecchia Vecchia is a 1500-acre estate in the heart of the Castelli Romani hills, an hour’s drive south from Rome. Within the grounds lie a villa and the ruins of a medieval hilltop village and castle, which were completely lost to brambles and ivy when the estate was bought in 1991 by newspaper owner, Carlo Caracciolo, and his wife Violante Visconti.

The brief

In 1994, just as Gae Aulenti, architect of the Musée d’Orsay, was finishing restoration of the living accommodation, Dan was approached to create a secret, magical world among the ruins – a rustic, romantic garden hidden from the heat of the Italian summer where only cool whites and blues punctuated the expanses of foliage and ancient, crumbling masonry.

The design

Around the villa, terraces perfumed by white wisteria and jasmine provide shaded seating areas. A formal entrance courtyard is framed by 20 ancient pomegranate trees and clipped box domes. As the house is left behind, the sense of cultivated rustic abandon grows with plantings that are close to nature, never noticeably ornamental. Wild, white climbing roses and wisteria scale ruins and wend their way through trees. Paths and outcrops are wreathed in self-sown foxgloves and white valerian, and a shallow ravine planted with white water iris, arum lilies and gunnera ends in a tranquil pond shaded by weeping cherries.

‘Though nothing here is left to chance,’ he (Carlo Caracciolo) says, ‘it appears so natural that people who visit sometimes ask why certain areas look overgrown and abandoned.’

Pearson is delighted when be hears these comments. They are proof that he has indeed managed to create a new garden that conveys the fascination of a place on the brink of being lost to nature. Pearson has come a long way since first setting foot here. He has established himself as one of the world’s leading landscape designers. That reputation, in large part, rests on his ability to do what he did at Torrecchia: establish a fragile equilibrium between wilderness and artifice.

Marella Caracciolo Chia | Vogue Living

It was Violante who, with Pearson, decided on the ethos of the garden as one of romantic informality and cool colours, predominantly greens and whites, and this has been carried through with gusto. Sitting outside the dining-room under the large pergola, every beam dripping in the long racemes of white Japanese wisteria, is one of the most memorable and dreamlike experiences I have had in 30 years of visiting gardens.

Stephen Lacey | The Telegraph Magazine

Deep in the Castelli Romani hills, 40 miles south of Rome, Torrecchia Vecchia is a place where nature and man have come together to make an extraordinary garden. Like the nearby garden of Ninfa, it has been shaped around the ruins of a medieval village, giving it an air of romanticism and mystery only heightened by its magical setting in a landscape of untouched natural beauty.

Clare Foster | House & Garden

Torrecchia Vecchia is the newest entry in the canon of ‘must-see’ Italian gardens. Located forty miles south of Rome, in the heart of the ancient Etruscan empire, it is an achingly romantic garden, rising from a pastoral landscape, framed by the volcanic foothills at the base of the Apennine mountains…Pearson once explained, ‘The garden is always on the brink of being lost to nature, it should be difficult to tell where it stops and woodland begins’. Certainly, as one wanders down the strada bianca which links Torrecchia Vecchia to the main road a mile or so below, it is indeed difficult to tell where the hand of man gives way to the hand of God.

Katie Campbell | Hortus

Carlo Caracciolo & Violante Visconti



Eva Nemeth

Huw Morgan