May 21, 2018
Appealing to horticultural and history aficionados alike, this five-night escorted tour takes in a wonderful selection of villas and gardens around the Italian capital, as well as some in the city itself. Visit the superb Renaissance gardens at Villa Lante, Tivoli’s famous Villa D’Este, the magnificent water features of Villa Aldobrandini, the iconic 17th century Villa Borghese, and more. Departing 1 October, Villas & Gardens Around Rome costs from £1,696 pp (two sharing), including BA flights (Heathrow), accommodation with breakfast at the four-star Park Hotel Villa Grazioli in Frascati, three dinners & two lunches, excursions and Kirker Tour Lecturer. Call AITO* member Kirker on 020 7593 2283 (www.kirkerholidays.com).
Take a scenic stroll through some of Scandinavia’s best gardens, including the 137-hectare Slottsskogen park in Gothenburg, where you may see elks, Gotland ponies and Gute sheep; visit the peaceful Garden Society of Gothenburg, one of the best preserved 19th century parks in Europe; and discover the beautiful palace of Sofiero, near Helsingborg, which features thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas in bloom. A journey from Gothenburg to Malmö costs from £846 pp (two sharing), including flights (Gatwick), seven nights’ B&B, private transfer on arrival and a 48-hour pass for Gothenburg and Skånetrafiken. Call AITO* member Sunvil on 020 8758 4758 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
Featuring immaculate gardens designed by former Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner Luciano Giubbilei, the luxurious Villa Dar Giardino is a stylish retreat, 20 km from vibrant Marrakech. The spectacular three-acre grounds boast ancient olive groves, fragrant Moroccan roses, an orange tree-lined courtyard and meandering pathways leading to a swimming pool and tennis court. Enjoy al fresco dining provided by an in-house chef and take in glorious views of the Atlas Mountains from the panoramic roof terrace. A week’s stay in Villa Dar Giardino (sleeps 14) costs from £893 pp (£12,501 total) including chef and housekeeping service. Flights extra. Call CV Villas on 020 7261 5400 (www.cvvillas.com).
The Mediterranean island of Crete, filled with limestone mountains, dramatic gorges and trickling streams, also boasts diverse wildflowers, plants and birdlife. After the hot summer, autumn brings a wonderful variety of crocus, cyclamen and narcissi to life. From your base in the pretty Venetian port town of Chania, enjoy guided botanical walks taking in spectacular mountain scenery, Minoan and Roman archaeological sites, coastal plains and sweeping sea views. Departing 16 October, Crete in Autumn costs from £1,195 pp (two sharing) including flights (Gatwick), seven nights’ B&B, lunches and the services of an expert botanist. Call AITO* member Naturetrek on 01962 733 051 (www.naturetrek.co.uk).
Discover the heritage and flora of Como, Maggiore and Lugano on a seven-night escorted tour of the Italian Lakes. Staying at the four-star lakeside Grand Hotel Menaggio, visit Villa del Balbianello’s elaborate terraced gardens, take a private lake cruise to Villa Carlotta – renowned for its azaleas and rhododendrons, tour Villa Monastero’s botanic gardens, Villa Melzi’s fine water garden and avenue of plane trees, and more. Departing in May, June, September & October, Villas & Gardens of the Italian Lakes costs from £995 pp (two sharing) including BA flights (Heathrow), transfers, seven nights’ B&B and the services of local guides and representatives. Call Jules Verne on 020 3553 3722 (www.vjv.com).
Unlike other parts of Costa Rica, the bustling capital is not known for its flora – but, delving into the heart of the city, you’ll discover a tropical paradise. The Bougainvillea Hotel boasts ten acres of botanical gardens with a huge diversity of tropical plants, including heliconias, orchids, papayas and pineapples, attracting vividly-coloured butterflies and melodic birds. Experience two nights in this utopia as part of a Highlights of Costa Rica tour, with time in wildlife-rich Tortuguero, volcanic Arenal and cloud-forested Monteverde. The cost is from £2,524 pp (two sharing), including BA flights (Heathrow), transfers, 12 nights’ B&B and private guided excursions as outlined. Call AITO* member Sunvil on 020 8758 4774 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
Situated above the perfectly-preserved Victorian coastal town of Llandudno, Bodysgallen Hall’s spectacular grounds featured on Glorious Gardens from Above (BBC One). Head Gardener Robert Owen hosts regular garden tours which include the enchanting follies, walled garden, herb parterre and rockery (£36 pp including lunch and wine; next tour is 18 May) and Master Florist Sioned Rowlands runs seasonal floristry demonstrations and workshops at the hotel (£37.50 pp including lunch and wine; next event is 23 May). An overnight stay costs from £190 per room (two sharing), including full Welsh breakfast and use of the spa. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels (0800 089 3929; www.prideofbritainhotels.com).
*AITO is the Association of Independent Tour Operators: more than 120 specialist travel companies providing an unrivalled collection of holiday ideas that cover every corner of the world. Consumers booking with AITO can be assured of high-quality holidays and excellent personal service. Visit www.aito.com for further information.