Garden Program for NYU Florence Students, Spring 2021

Villa La Pietra’s world-famous gardens and grounds make studying at NYU Florence different from any other Study Abroad site and it’s easy to see how the words garden and paradise share the same origin.

Through talks, live and prerecorded, workshops and discussion groups Program Garden aims to facilitate a deeper appreciation of this special place, to more fully enjoy it and to use it as a mirror to reflect wider issues in the world.

Spring Semester 2021’s Program Garden events will include:
  • A series of Zoom talks looking at the soil, how its management has a huge affect on climate change and why it is the key to producing healthy homegrown food;
  • A session looking at seasonal eating and why some of Tuscany’s most famous foods were designed to get us through the Hungry Gap;
  • Socially distanced foraging in the olive groves for the first, wild and healthy, salad leaves of the season;
  • A session looking at citrus growing in Tuscany along with the chance to enjoy an outdoor citrus fruit picnic in the open.
March 11, at 7:00 pm (CET) – on zoom (Register Here)

How the Pomario of Villa La Pietra is Being Converted to a Bio-active Vegetable Garden

Nick Dakin-Elliot, NYU Florence’s Horticultural Associate, will give an account of the Pomario’s history and explain the idea behind the bio-active vegetable garden and why this milestone event will contribute to the battle against climate change as well as producing more nutritious veggies.

Attached to the north side of Villa La Pietra is a walled garden, the Pomario, that has been producing food for over 550 years. In that time, ideas on what is good to eat and how best to grow it have changed but two basic facts remain constant: the walls and gates surrounding it help create a microclimate free from foraging animals and its soil is fertile. Spring 2021 will witness the start of a new chapter in the Pomario’s history as work begins to convert it into a bio-active vegetable garden. This initiative forms part of NYU Florence’s wider plans to improve its sustainability. The estate’s green waste is being composted to produce a life-rich compost that will aid the growth and nutritional value of the vegetables that we produce while also helping to combat climate change.

Garden Program for NYU Florence Students, Fall 2020

Through talks, live and prerecorded, workshops and discussion groups Program Garden aims to facilitate a deeper appreciation of this special place, to more fully enjoy it and to use it as a mirror to reflect wider issues in the world.



Sunday 30th, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Tour of the Agricultural Estate and Pomario, followed by a picnic in the Pomario (rain plan Limonaia)
A villa estate is not a farm: it produces food but, unlike a farm, it is created with the owner’s wellbeing in mind.
Pliny wrote “I always feel energetic and fit at my Tuscan villa, both mentally and physically.” [Epistles, V. vi.45].
This tour helps us understand the land we see at Villa La Pietra.

If you are unable to join on the tour or want to learn more about these topics this is a list of videos available to you.



Monday 23rd , 10:00 AM

The Theory of Planting and Sowing a Vegetable Garden
The Pomario, the walled garden attached to the north side of Villa La Pietra, has produced food for those who live on the estate for more than 500 years. The hundred plus noble citrus trees, the grape vines and the ancient pear trees provide living structure within which a wide range of vegetables is grown. Planting and sowing our own crops and caring for them until they are ready to harvest allow us to be actively involved in producing fresh food, grown on campus, and to be part of a tradition that stretches back to the Italian Renaissance.

Video (now available):

Monday, September 14 at 10:00 am

Practical sessions sowing and planting in the Pomario
Under the guidance of gardening professionals hands-on gardening, workshops will establish the routine that becomes our care of the crops we have planted and sown. More of an activity of the mind than the body, you will be encouraged to question why things are done and to plan what needs to be done next.



Videos (coming up soon):

  • Healthy Soil Healthy Food

The secret to successful vegetable growing lies in the soil. Many feel modern agricultural techniques ignore the soil’s wellbeing while greatly adding to climate change. This talk looks at what soil is, both its mineral and living components, and how gardeners may work to ensure it is in good health.

  • Composting Waste to Produce Healthier Crops

How we deal with organic waste has a great effect on the world we live in but it is something we as individuals may take control of. This session looks at some of the problems we create by dealing with waste badly and how gardeners may do better and, in doing so, produce the very life-blood a good vegetable patch runs on.

  • Managing Home Food Production in a Sustainable Manner

Research shows that growing vegetables is good for your health, both physical and mental. Using your brain more than your body ensures that the hard work too often associated with gardening is kept to a minimum. This talk looks at the features of the perfect vegetable garden and how to manage them to make things easy while producing a succession of healthy crops to eat.

Friday 23rd, Sunday 25th, and Saturday 31st October, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Olive Harvest, Harvest Lunch and Oil Tasting
The olive oil we produce at Villa La Pietra is a particularly good version of the Tuscan olive oil that is famous the world over. We start the day by looking at olive trees and discussing their importance within Tuscan culture. We then harvest olives to work up an appetite for the traditional harvest lunch that will be an offer in the olive grove. The day will end with an explanation as to how the harvested olives are pressed to release their liquid gold and the chance to taste a range of very different olive oils from across Italy. Quality is a complex concept that needs to be safeguarded but also appreciated.



Tuesday 3rd, 06.30 PM – 07.30 PM

Slow Gardening
Research in Italy shows that patients who can see trees from their hospital beds return home before those who can’t. Gardeners can produce healthy, fresh food, with very limited tools or chemicals and, in doing so, help limit climate change. Scientists have shown that a walk in the park does wonders for our mental health. There is a lot of good in gardening but things are not as green and positive as gardeners may like to think. Gardeners use lots of plastic that becomes difficult to recycle and chemicals, organic or not, that harm the world we live in. Then there is the consumption of water and fossil fuels needed to keep large areas of pristine lawn looking how we have grown to expect them to be. This workshop looks at some of the issues, allows us to appreciate the complexities, look at possible solutions and asks the question, is it time for some ‘Slow Gardening’? The session will be led by Olivier de Maret and Nick Dakin-Elliot who will give their introductory thoughts and then answer questions from students.

Sunday 21st, time tba

Taste the difference of Fresh Food, Cooking and Eating VLP’s Home Grown Produce
It is often said that the key to good cooking is to use good ingredients. Harvesting home grown vegetables for a meal is a sure way to ensure your meal will be asty but it will also ensure it is as healthy as it can be. From the time of harvesting crops begin to lose their nutritional value and much of what is an offer at the supermarket may have been harvested weeks earlier, often before it was fully mature or ripe. This session allows you to harvest and prepare vegetables, cook them and delight in tasting the difference.

For more information and to attend please write to

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