By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: My wife and I will be celebrating our 25th annivesary. With the kids off to school, we'd really like to take a trip together. She's very interested in exploring Tuscany. I don't really mind where it is so long as there's something that I could learn out of it too.

A: The great American Pulitzer Prize winning poet Robert Frost once remarked, "Nature doesn't complete things. She is chaotic. Man must finish and he does so by making a garden." Now in its 29th year, Humanities Abroad, a tour company, that pegs itself as "mindful travel" has a goal to "provide stimulating educational explorations into the heart and soul of the places we visit." The emphasis is on dynamic guides for small groups.

Currently the Boston-based tour company is offering "The History of the Italian Pleasure Garden," a one-week trip exploring some of the finest gardens with notable horticulturalists in the heart of Tuscany.

Your homebase of course will be a medieval palace, which was later transformed into a monastery by Florence's patrons of the Renaissance, the deMedici's. The former castle now has splendid apartments and easily reminds one of E.M. Forester's novel, "A Room With A View."

Among the many garden stops, you'll visit one of the premier Italian villas in Tuscany, the gardens of Villa Gamberaia. Situated in the hills of Settignano overlooking the majesty of Florence, the gardens are celebrated around the world by leading architects and garden historians.

When Art Historian Bernard Berenson described his old haunt he remarked how, "its beauty is great enough to absorb one almost completely, the terraces, the ponds, the great apse of cut cypresses, the bowling green as you look at it from the grotto toward the south like a great boat sailing through space."

For garden enthusiasts, there is perhaps no other city in the world that provides the history of the ornamental garden as Florence and Tuscany. The accolades include the oldest botanical society in Europe, the first public institute for the study of agronomy and its historic Chianti region is the first officially recognized wine district in the world.

The History of the Italian Pleasure Garden is scheduled June 6-14, 2004. The price is $2700US and includes accommodation, most meals, course material and land transportation. For more information, visit the Humanities Abroad web site at


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