Astonishing. Behind the unassuming facades of Via de' Serragli lies a vast, secret garden – Europe’s largest privately owned green space within a historic centre, owned by the Torrigiani Malaspina and Torrigiani di Santa Cristina families. Well-kept and loved, it’s possible to visit this leafy retreat in the engaging company of the charismatic Marquis Vanni Torrigiani Malaspina and his wife, Susanna. Tours (in English or Italian) are intimate and proffer a rare glimpse into a very different and privileged Florentine world

Designed at the height of the Romantic movement in the early 19th century, the idyllic oasis of green wrapped around the original 16th-century villa and subsequent early-19th-century house includes rare tree species, wide English-style lawns, herb and vegetables gardens, sculpted lions, a beautifully restored greenhouse, and remains of city walls built under Cosimo I in 1544 (one of six sets of walls to be built around Florence at different times – spot the segment of older, 14th-century walls outside the garden).

The garden design is laden with complex Masonic symbology, climaxing with an elegant neo-Gothic tower spiralling to the heavens; the three levels allude to the three stages of the initiation process from the profane world to the initiation of Freemasonry.

In the restored antique greenhouse and Italian garden known collectively as Serra Torrigiani, the marquis Vanni and Susanna run horticultural, gardening and painting courses and workshops.