Ninfa, declared a Natural Monument by Regional Law in 2000, is located in the municipalities of Cisterna di Latina and Sermoneta. It was a medieval city for which reminiscent evidence still exists, including part of the castle, the walls, the completely restored municipal building and relics of churches and city buildings.

The castle and ruins of the old medieval town of Ninfa. Lazio Region, central Italy

Above all, Ninfa, is a magnificent natural oasis, unique in the world, created where once marshes reigned. The history of this place began, basically, in the middle of the 8th century, when it was given to Pope Zacharias by the Emperor of Constantinople. Since then, it has belonged to various powerful families, such as the Counts of Tuscolo, the Frangipane family (during whose rule Alexander III was crowned Pope on 20 September 1159). The city was subsequently destroyed by Emperor Frederick Redbeard before passing to the Counts of Ceccano, under the pontificate of Innocent III, and the Annibaldi family. Finally, it became the estate of the Caetani family that began what would be one of the most splendid periods through the election of Benedetto Caetani to the Pontifex (1294) with the name Boniface VIII. The city was again destroyed in 1382 and completely abandoned.

View of the Garden of Ninfa. Lazio Region, central Italy

It was necessary to wait until 1920 to see Ninfa return to life, after a series of extraordinary recovery interventions implemented by Gelasio Caetani, son of Onorato and Ada, both of British origin, (total cleaning of the area, restoration and reinforcing of the buildings, planting of the first trees) and, thereafter, by Roffredo Caetani and his wife Marguerite Chapin (American) who was entirely dedicated to caring for the garden. But the greatness of the current naturalistic oasis is principally due to Lelia Caetani, the last descendant of the Caetani family.

Medieval ruins in Ninfa’s garden. Lazio Region, central Italy.

In fact, it was she who completed the plan of the current garden that did not follow any model or fashion of the times, but simply the creative instinct and skills of three women of noble lineage.

Here one breathes a magical atmosphere, a place where species of plants and flowers from all over the world live side by side. It’s as if the land and climate adapt to them and supply them with all the constituents typical of their original habitat and required for them to thrive luxuriantly. It all seems part of a supernatural plan, the beauty of which is contributed to by the Ninfa river, the tiny streams, the lake and diverse fauna.

For more information: Fondazione Caetani