Italy and France, history of gardens small group escorted tour

Odyssey's small group tour explores some of the classic gardens of Italy and France that reflect changing fashions and garden designs throughout the ages. This fully escorted tour features an Odyssey Program Leader and a handful of local guides who will examine, discuss, compare and contrast the cultural and temporal similarities and diversities between the gardens of Italy and France and the historical influences on their design.

From $19,052NZD



  1. 1. Visit the magnificent gardens of a villa once owned by Toscanini at Lake Maggiore, in the shadow of the Swiss Alps.
  2. 2. Explore lush gardens in the Vatican City and exclusive villas of Rome to uncover a floral extravaganza.
  3. 3. Marvel at magnificent Renaissance and Baroque garden designs in Tuscany, influenced by family dynasties such as the Medicis.
  4. 4. Experience the opulence of the Cote d'Azur in Monte Carlo and see the birthplace of perfume fragrances in Grasse.
Italy and France, history of gardens small group escorted tour itinerary

Departure Dates

Departure Date Price
05 September 2024

Ends 29 September 2024

$19,052 Twin

$20,903 Single

19 May 2025

Ends 12 June 2025

$20,004 Twin

$21,953 Single

04 September 2025

Ends 28 September 2025

$20,004 Twin

$21,953 Single

18 May 2026

Ends 11 June 2026

$20,004 Twin

$21,953 Single

03 September 2026

Ends 27 September 2026

$20,004 Twin

$21,953 Single


History of Italian and French gardens

Odyssey offers easy, convenient, and relaxed escorted small group tours across Western Europe and beyond including France and Italy. We explore both Italy and France’s fairy-tale natural beauty, its ancient Roman, and Imperial heritage, its World Heritage Sites, and world famous cities, all with some truly spectacular scenery along the way. This and more is all waiting to be explored on one of Odyssey’s small group tours of Italy and France, designed for the senior traveller, and led by experienced, and enthusiastic like minded people.

Our Italy and France, history of gardens tour is designed especially for senior travellers. The 25 day escorted tour explores classic gardens within Italy and France. During the tour, participants will learn about the changing fashions and modes of garden designs throughout the ages. With the support of an experienced leader and local guides, we travel through many heritage gardens, discovering more about the history and culture of these places and regions in the process.

The Italian and French garden history tour takes in a diverse collection of gardens. From private to public, formal to informal, and large versus small, from the Vatican Gardens to the lavender fields of Valensole in Provence, we compare these gardens for insights into Italy and France. In what ways do their gardens differ? Are there features that they share? Additionally, the tour considers the significant historical influences on garden design. Along the way, the Program Leader of Italian and French gardens small group tour will provide insightful commentary. Thus, our experiences will be meaningful and educational, and we'll return with a greater understanding of this enduring art form.

A closer look at European gardens

Because this 25 day program stays in just six destinations, we will have time to unpack, explore and enjoy each location at a reasonable pace, rather than being hurried through. The Italian and French gardens small group tour is designed for senior or mature people with inquiring minds, and we welcome both couples and solo travellers. This tour is just one of some 250 tours Odyssey offers each year, including around twenty to France or Italy. The garden tour is part of a series of Europe tours focusing on gardens across the continent, offering a unique travel experience. These include the Dutch Tulip small group tour of the Netherlands, and British garden design.

For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.


25 days

Day 1: Rome

Accommodation: 4 nights at Donna Laura Palace or similar.

Upon arrival in Rome, we will come individually to the hotel. This evening we will enjoy our welcome dinner at a restaurant nearby.

Founded by the Etruscans, Rome became the centre of Europe’s greatest Empire and one of the world’s great religions. It still offers an astonishing array of outstanding sights from the Roman Forum and Coliseum to the great Vatican Basilica of St. Peter, many of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. The traveler is awestruck by the richness of the city’s churches, monuments, and museums. Rome is a city in which a phenomenal concentration of history, legend, and icons co-exist with the hustle and bustle of its 4 million inhabitants. The city also allows us to examine the development of gardens from the Ancient Roman through medieval to modern times.

Day 2: Rome

Accommodation: Donna Laura Palace or similar.

After breakfast we commence our exploration of the city with our local tour guide. In Rome we will learn about the history and people of Italy, as well as the principles of classic garden design. We will have an introduction to ancient Roman gardens and their modification in the medieval gardens of the powerful Cardinals.

The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the city individually.

Day 3: Rome

Accommodation: Donna Laura Palace or similar.

Today we continue our tour exploring Rome with our local guide using the local transport system. We visit the Vatican Gardens and learn about the villas of ancient Rome as we are introduced to the Villa of Livia and its impressive garden frescoes at the National Museum.

Day 4: Rome

Accommodation: Donna Laura Palace or similar.

Today’s full day field trip introduces us to 2 of the region’s most influential gardens as we experience the ancient Hadrian’s Villa as well as the extravagantly Baroque Villa d’Este at Tivoli.

Day 5: Radda in Chianti

Accommodation: 5 nights at Palazzo San Nicolo or similar.

Today we head north to Tuscany, pausing to experience the gardens of Villa Cetinale near Sienna and the hilltop town of San Gimignano before arriving at our hotel in Radda in Chianti for dinner.

Renowned for its history and evocative landscape, Tuscany is a region where the past and present merge in pleasant harmony. Hill-towns gaze across the countryside from on high, many circled by Etruscan walls and slender cypress trees, olive groves, or vineyards. Glorious palaces and gardens testify to the region’s wealth and rich heritage. The area is famed for its classic Renaissance and Baroque garden designs strongly influenced by the family dynasties, such as The Medici.

Day 6: Radda in Chianti

Accommodation: Palazzo San Nicolo or similar.

We experience the great city of Florence as our guided walking tour takes us to the city’s Cathedral and Ponte Vecchio. We also explore the Boboli Gardens, followed by some free time to explore before we return to our hotel.

Day 7: Radda in Chianti

Accommodation: Palazzo San Nicolo or similar.

Today’s field trip takes us to 2 great gardens of the region: Villa Medicea di Castello, country garden of the Medici, and Villa Gamberaia at Settignan, the perfect reconstruction of a Tuscan garden.

Day 8: Radda in Chianti

Accommodation: Palazzo San Nicolo or similar.

This morning we experience the Carla Fisneschi Rose Garden at Cavriglia before continuing to Arezzo with its 13th century church of San Francisco, where we view one of Italy’s greatest fresco cycles.

Day 9: Radda in Chianti

Accommodation: Palazzo San Nicolo or similar.

Today we have a field trip to the former port city of Pisa with its fine baptistery and infamous leaning tower. Here we visit the city’s botanical garden, one of the oldest in Europe, before some free time to explore the city. We will return to our hotel in Radda in Chianti for dinner.

Day 10: Cannobio

Accommodation: 3 nights at Hotel Antica Stallera or similar.

After breakfast we depart and travel north with a pause in Parma, home of Parma ham and cheese, where we have a tasting session. We then continue our journey to Cannobio on the shores of Lake Maggiore.

Maggiore, Italy’s second largest lake, nestles against the mountainous scenery of the Swiss Alps. However, it owes much of its charm to the villas and gardens scattered around the lake and the cluster of small Borromean Islands which boast 17th century palaces, splendid landscaped gardens, and a villa which once belonged to Toscanini.

Day 11: Cannobio

Accommodation: Hotel Antica Stallera or similar.

Today we enjoy a full day trip on Lake Maggiore with a visit to Borromean Islands of Isola Bella and Isola Madre, followed by some free time in Stresa. We learn about the history and design of the manicured and landscaped gardens.

Day 12: Cannobio

Accommodation: Hotel Antica Stallera or similar.

Today we visit some of the best known botanical gardens of the region. Our first visit is the Scottish influenced garden of Villa Taranto, then we have a private visit to Villa Cicogna Mozzoni.

Day 13: Nice

Accommodation: 4 nights at Mercure Nice Marche aux Fleurs or similar.

En route to the French Riviera, we pause at Turin where we experience the gardens of the Palazzo Reale, designed by the Frenchman Le Notre for the Dukes of Savoy. Dinner will be at our hotel this evening.

Bordered by the Rhône in the west, the Mediterranean in the south, olive groves to the north, and the Alps to the east, the Côte d’Azur has been for centuries a popular summer destination for Europeans seeking coastal warmth. The warm climate of this area is suited to the growing of exotic and tropical flora.

Day 14: Nice

Accommodation: Mercure Nice Marche aux Fleurs or similar.

Today’s journey takes us past typical villages of the Cote d’Azur as we drive along the renowned Corniche to Monaco with its Royal Palace, casino of Monte Carlo, and exotic garden.

We will have some free time in Monaco this afternoon, and dinner will be at a local restaurant.

Day 15: Nice

Accommodation: Mercure Nice Marche aux Fleurs or similar.

After breakfast we depart for a full day field trip to the hinterland of Provance as we learn about perfume manufacturing in the town of Grasse. We then drive through the mimosa forest in La Napoule and view the fields of lavender in Valensole.

We will arrive back in time for dinner at our hotel.

Day 16: Nice

Accommodation: Mercure Nice Marche aux Fleurs or similar.

This morning we explore Nice with its old town and flower market, followed by an afternoon trip to the exotic Jardin Thuret at Antibes. We then continue on to Frejus to visit the Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre.

Day 17: Tours

Accommodation: 3 nights at Ibis Styles City or similar.

Today we depart Nice and cross the country by TGV train to Tours. Dinner will be at our hotel this evening.

The Loire Valley has long been the hunting region and playground of the French aristocracy with many fine châteaux and gardens along the River Loire and its tributaries.

Day 18: Tours

Accommodation: Ibis Styles City or similar.

Today’s full day field trip takes us to the famous gardens of the Chateau of Villandry and to the French Renaissance Chateau of Chenenceau, spanning the River Cher with Catherine de Medici’s garden. We also explore the medieval city of Tours.

Day 19: Tours

Accommodation: Ibis Styles City or similar.

Today we take a trip to Maisonnais to visit the Prieure Notre Dame D’Orsan garden, a recreation of a medieval monastic garden.

Day 20: Paris

Accommodation: 5 nights at Relais Monceau Hotel or similar.

Today we travel to Paris, with a stop in Giverny to visit Monet’s house and gardens. Dinner will be at a local restaurant this evening.

Paris’s monumental architecture reflects the city’s diverse and interesting history together with its political and cultural status. Among the most important medieval buildings are the Cathedral of Nôtre Dame, begun in 1163; the nearby Sainte-Chapelle, a magnificent 13th century Gothic structure; and the Louvre, once a royal palace. During the mid 19th century Paris was redesigned by Baron Georges Haussmann, and several grandiose projects were undertaken to emphasise the city’s significance. The Arc de Triomphe, the Opéra, the Place de l’Opéra, the Place de l’Étoile (now Place Charles de Gaulle), and many of the broad avenues with their imposing perspectives date from this time. Modern day Parisians are still proud of their city’s grandeur reflected by the integration of modern constructions such as the Tour Eiffel, the Pompidou Centre, the Louvre Pyramid, and the Arche de la Défense with the great architecture of the past. Within and around Paris there are many fine examples of French horticultural design including the Botanical Gardens, the Jardins du Luxembourg, and Versailles.

Day 21: Paris

Accommodation: Relais Monceau Hotel or similar.

Today we enjoy a full day guided city tour of Paris. Using the metro to get around, we will enjoy visits to the Botanical Gardens and Jardins de Luxembourg, as well as view the city’s main sights.

Dinner will be at a local restaurant this evening.

Day 22: Paris

Accommodation: Relais Monceau Hotel or similar.

Today we take the metro to Versailles where we visit the palace and gardens of the Sun King. Dinner will be at a local restaurant this evening.

Day 23: Paris

Accommodation: Relais Monceau Hotel or similar.

Today we go on another metro excursion and travel to Bourg la Reine to experience the famous Roseraie de l’Hay and the outstanding gardens of Chateau de Sceaux.

Dinner will be at a local restaurant this evening.

Day 24: Paris

Accommodation: Relais Monceau Hotel or similar.

Today we enjoy our last day together as a group, travelling by metro to visit the Bois du Boulogne gardens and its Chateau de Bagatelle.

The afternoon is free to explore this amazing city on your own. In the evening our farewell dinner will be at a local restaurant.

Day 25: Paris

Our tour concludes today after breakfast.

Includes / Excludes

What’s included in our Tour

  • 24 nights of hotel accommodation in en-suite share twin rooms.
  • 24 breakfasts and 12 dinners.
  • Transport and field trips as indicated.
  • Gratuities and necessary tips.
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
  • Services of a specialist Tour Leader for the duration of the tour.
  • Detailed tour information booklet.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • International airfares.
  • Comprehensive International Travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature like laundry, phone calls and meals not listed in the itinerary.
Level 2 - Moderate

Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, be in good health, mobile and able to participate in 3-5 hours of physical activity per day, the equivalent of walking / hiking up to 8 kilometers per day on uneven ground.

Book now


05 September 2024


Ends 29 September 2024 • 25 days

Change departure date


Room Type

Single Traveller
Two Travellers
$19,052 pp

By booking two travellers sharing a room you save $1710 per person.

Payment Type

You can reserve your spot by paying a $1,000 pp deposit, for full details please see our Terms & Conditions .

Pay Deposit
Pay Full

Prices are per person and valid until 30th December 2024.

Need Help?

We're here to help you with any questions you have. Call us anytime 24/7.
New Zealand flag 0800 440 055

Make it a private tour

If you have a group of 6 friends or more you can book this tour as a private departure, with all the benefits of our small group tours.
Get in touch to find out more.

Easing your journey

Crossing international borders with restrictions

The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:

Pre-departure checklist for travelling across International borders.
Support over email or phone available 24/7 for any questions you have.

For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.

Book With Confidence

If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.

See Terms and conditions for details.

Peace of Mind Travel

The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.

See Peace of Mind Travel for details.

Reading List Download PDF

The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit

Helena Attlee

Travellers have always been thrilled by the sight of citrus in Italy, where dark leaves and bright fruit seem to charge the landscape, making the trees symbols of a sun-soaked, poetic vision of the country. Citrus also holds a special place in the Italian imagination, and in The Land Where Lemons Grow, Helena Attlee sets out to explore its curious past and its enduring resonance in Italian culture. The Land Where Lemons Grow is a heady mixture of travel writing, history, horticulture and art; a unique journey through Italy's cultural, culinary and political past. Helena Attlee is the author of four books about Italian gardens, and others on the cultural history of gardens around the world. Helena is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund and has worked in Italy for nearly 30 years.

Essay on Gardens: A Chapter in the French Picturesque

Claude-Henri Watelet

Published in 1774, Essay on Gardens is one of the earliest texts showing the progressive shift in French taste from the classical model of the gardens at Versailles to the picturesque or natural style of garden design in the late eighteenth century. In this formulation of his ideas concerning landscape, Claude-Henri Watelet describes an ideal farm and also his own very real garden, Moulin Joli, near Paris. He advances the theory that the useful and the pleasurable must be combined in the planning, preservation, and decoration of the land by offering a relatively novel design that uses experimental methods to create a comfortable estate. The result is a horticultural and ecological laboratory that includes a residence, a farm, stables, a dairy, an apiary, a mill, walks, vistas, flower beds, an area reserved for medicinal plants, decorative statues, a medical laboratory, and even a small infirmary for ailing members of the community.

Given the wide scholarly interest in the field of garden design and its history, this first English edition of Watelet's small but influential book will interest historians of landscape design as well as students of the history of architecture. Joseph Disponzio's informative introduction to Samuel Danon's masterful translation situates the Essay on Gardens within the framework of other landscape and garden treatises of the late eighteenth century.

Although the original text was not illustrated, this edition includes a selection of charming drawings and etchings of Moulin Joli by Watelet himself, Hubert Robert, and others.

The Italian Garden

Judith Lennox

Set amid the wealth and beauty of sixteenth-century Europe, Judith Lennox's novel transports her readers to a world of passion, intrigue and bitter rivalry.

The du Chantonnay estate of Marigny on the Loire consumes the desires of two powerful men - bitter, worldly-wise Guillaume du Chantonnay, and ruthless Hamon de Bohun - who will stop at nothing to possess it. Toby Crow, a young soldier of fortune, is also drawn to Marigny for his mysterious origins are somehow bound up with the chateau.

Italy's most priceless beauty, exotic Joanna Zulian, would crown Marigny's perfection. But Joanna, bred a vagabond and newly escaped from a stifling marriage to the artist Gaetano, vows never again to be possessed by any man, nor obey any laws but her own. With the help of the adoring English doctor Martin and a reluctant Toby, Joanna forges her own path through war-ravaged Europe.

And when Joanna comes at last to Marigny, it is to weave the whole intricate tale of the de Bohuns, the du Chantonnays, and her own colourful life into the Italian garden she designs. it will be her own legacy, a legacy fraught with danger.

Italian Villas and Their Gardens

Judith Wharton

Italian Villas and Their Gardens is a classic work on gardening by none other than Edith Wharton.

A year in Provence

Peter Mayle

Peter Mayle and his wife did what most of us only imagine doing when they made their long-cherished dream of a life abroad a reality: throwing caution to the wind, they bought a glorious two hundred year-old farmhouse in the Lubéron Valley and began a new life. In a year that begins with a marathon lunch and continues with a host of gastronomic delights, they also survive the unexpected and often hilarious curiosities of rural life. From mastering the local accent and enduring invasion by bumbling builders, to discovering the finer points of boules and goat-racing, all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life are conjured up in this enchanting portrait.

Related Articles

Articles about Italy and France

Related Tour Categories

Level 2 - Moderate

Villages of Italy, Volterra, Tuscany Italy View 134 tours

Join 22,383 like-minded travellers receiving our weekly newsletter.

Special offers and promotions
$379 NZD first trip travel voucher
The latest tours and articles