Garden Photo of the Day

Cactus in Italy

A visit to a spectacular estate in Sicily

Jan LeClair sent in today’s photos. She writes:

I am submitting some garden photos from Sicily. You published my photos a year and a half ago from the famous Valley of the Temples, located in Agrigento in Sicily’s southwest region. Today’s photos come from Il Giardino di San Giuliano, in Villasmundo Melilli, Siracusa. Located in the southeastern part of the island of Sicily, the garden is part of the estate of the Marchesi di San Giuliano, and the farmhouse and acreage have been in the family for 800 years. One thousand feet above sea level, the garden has dry and well-drained calcareous soil, making it terrific for cacti as well as orchards. The marquis was formerly married to Fiamma Ferragamo of the famed Italian shoe company, who sadly passed away in the late 1990s. Together they helped transform the gardens and the estate back to its original splendor.

These pictures were taken near the fortified main house; the splendid sculptural cacti garden greets visitors at the main gate. Other than the sounds of birds and cicadas, the estate was quiet, located as it is at the end of an unmarked road in the country, between Siracusa and Catania. It was well worth the visit—and the two stops we made on the way to ask for help with directions!

If you’d like to learn more about Italian gardens, I recommend Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by Andrea di Robilant. It is a perfect summer read about gardens and flowers and Italy.

Looking through the main gate at the cactus garden.


The cactus garden in all its glory. Though thriving here in Italy, these cactus and agave plants are all native to the Americas.


More of the garden around the main house.


Many tall columnar cacti create a dramatic, sculptural landscape that is tough and requires very little water.


Another view of the gardens around the house. View our plant guide to the golden barrel cactus.



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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/08/2018

    Wow, love those cactus

  2. cheryl_c 08/08/2018

    What an exotic site and romantic story! So glad to see the cacti at such a mature stage of growth. They obviously love the climate. Thank you for a trip to a far away place this morning!

  3. Chellemp 08/08/2018

    Jan, thank you so much for submitting these photos. They are spectacular! Agaves are a special love of mine and I have always been fascinated by all cacti. Alas, I can only live vicariously through these photos. My climate in the midwestern US does not support them in our cold wet winters. And thank you for the lovely background story from the estate. It's been a beautiful trip.

  4. btucker9675 08/08/2018

    Gorgeous - makes me want to go on vacation!

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/08/2018

    The drama of those mature cacti is captivating. Nothing shy about them. And who doesn't feel intrigued by a rusted gate with interesting scrolling?! Thank you for sharing your pictures.

  6. perenniallycrazy 08/11/2018

    Stunning specimens and beautiful backdrop! Thanks for sharing your photos.

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