The Italian Gardens is a 150-year-old ornamental water garden based on the north side of Kensington Gardens, near Lancaster Gate. It is believed that it was created as a gift from Prince Albert to Queen Victoria.
This is an utterly beautiful location within London and is the perfect place to visit at any time of year. Visitors flock from far and wide to see the historical structure, which has been renovated over the years to retain its natural beauty and to conserve it for years to come.
The garden is situated at the head of The Long Water – the river which flows through Kensington Gardens into Hyde Park, where it becomes The Serpentine. The site is Grade II-listed by English Heritage as an area of particular importance.
It displays four main basins with central rosettes, all elaborately carved in Carrara marble, as well as the famous Portland stone and white marble Tazza Fountain. These are surrounded by intricately carved stone statues and urns. The urns have five main designs – the swan’s breast, woman’s head, ram’s head, dolphin and oval.
Travel to the Italian Gardens
Anyone visiting the Italian Gardens will find that the London Underground network is the most stress-free travel option.
Usually known as the Tube, there are several nearby stations that are ideal for this location:
- Lancaster Gate (Central line): 1 minute walk
- Bayswater (Circle and District lines): 6 minutes walk
- Notting Hill Gate (Circle, District and Central lines lines): 6 minutes walk
Meanwhile, full details of all local public transport options for visitors to the Italian Gardens and the surrounding area can be found at the official website of Transport for London.
Following are nearby hotels you can stay them.
History of the Italian Gardens
The formal layout of the Italian Gardens can be traced back to Osborne House on The Isle of Wight. Prince Albert was an avid gardener and was in charge of the gardens at Osborne House, where the royal family spent its holidays. It was during this time that Prince Albert created an Italian Garden there, which boasted large raised terraces, fountains, urns and new geometric flower beds.
In 1860, the Italian Garden at Kensington gardens was built. While these were designed by James Pennethorne, they included many of the features of the Osborne garden.
At the north end of the gardens you can see the Pump House, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s initials are engraved on one of the walls. The building originally contained a steam engine that operated the fountains and the pillar on the roof, but is a cleverly disguised chimney. A stoker used to be employed all night on a Saturday to keep the engine running and pump water into the Round Pond, so that on Sundays there was enough water to run the fountains without the engine working.
The fame of the Italian Gardens
The Italian Gardens is known for its beauty and as such has been used as a location in several films, including Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Wimbledon.
Renovations to the Italian Gardens
Due to the age of the Italian Gardens, a number of renovations have taken place over the years to ensure that they maintain their original splendour. The most recent of these were in 1991 and 2011. In 1991, one of each of the vases was re-carved by a stone mason working for English Heritage.
In 2011, more significant restoration work took place. This included the repair of severe frost damage, the clearance of silt from fountain basins and ancient pipework, and the removal of a build-up of green algae from the Portland stone and marble. While the works cost £486,000, they have successfully conserved these beautiful gardens for future generations of Londoners and visitors to enjoy.
In addition, the work also involved intricate stone carving and cleaning to restore the famous Tazza Fountain, which overlooks The Long Water, as well as the renovation of the benches and the installation of a new, cleaner, water system that takes water from a borehole.
During this restoration, the Royal Parks’ ecology and landscape architecture teams designed a display of aquatic plants which were anchored in the four perimeter basins. This aims to reflect how the Gardens might originally have appeared.
Inspiration for this was taken from vintage postcards, which show how the basins were originally planted. The new plants include native water lilies, yellow flag iris, flowering rush and purple loosestrife. These are rooted in cages just below the water.