top of page

Italian Exterior Inspirations: Dining Al Fresco

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

Hi Heathertique readers!

Elizabeth London here again for the second part of my takeover on Heather’s blog! (If you missed part one, check it out here)

This time, I’m talking about Italian exterior inspirations for the home. It seems to me that there are three options when it comes to outdoor space in an Italian home. Either you have a tiny balcony just large enough to hang your clothesline and have a quick smoke – two standard practices around here for sure! Or your home might be blessed with a spacious terrazza that you can surround with jasmine vines, wooden patio furniture, a shade umbrella and a small fountain. Or you might be one of the lucky ones with a proper yard area with grass and trees and the works! FYI, they’re all called gardens here, not yards, whether you have vegetables and flowers growing in the ground or not!

Photo by Max Kim-Bee for Veranda Magazine

No matter how big or small your giardino may be, there is a magic, whimsy, an serenity that almost every Italian garden I’ve been in has managed to capture.

This is my absolute most favorite photo that captures the magic of an Italian giardino:

That’s my son stepping through the giant rustic arched wooden doors draped in cascading ivy. This photo is from a nearby vineyard, and the combination of elements in this outdoor space was just SO Italian that I had to snap some photos. Mixed cobblestone, tile and concrete grounds, giant wooden doors, crawling greenery and the old wine barrel off to the side. Plus, you wouldn’t think it, but this space in which I’m standing to take the photograph is smaller than my living room. It’s a small space that feels grand, and that’s exactly how the small outdoor spaces are composed.

Now, if you’re lucky to have an actual grand physical space, take a note out of the Italian style book by creating intimate social areas to break up the space. In America, we tend to have large square patches of yard in which we pay good money to keep the grass pristine and uniform, don’t we? In Italy, they prefer usable spaces like this little nook under the trees where they’ve created simple and charming recliners out of wooden pallets!

Yes, another adorable cameo by my kid, testing out the pallet chairs. But notice in the background the beautiful ivy-draped arches and a row of hedges lined with statuary and various other outdoor decor. So very Mediterranean!

As for us personally, we considered several apartments and condos when we were on the hunt for our temporary home. After dancing back and forth between a big shared-space green garden (all of the tenants in the building share it) or a private terrace or living further out of town to get a garden of our own, we settled on a downtown apartment with a rooftop terrace. At first it was pretty sad to look at and terribly hot to hang out on, but we’ve finally gotten around to adding some of the popular jasmine vines to creep along the trellis for privacy and beauty, and we’ve added a big shade umbrella and furniture as well.

It’s not nearly the secret Narnia-esque terrace that I covet of my neighbor – she’s got an iron arched gazebo covered in jasmine that completely encloses her terrace from the outside world in a little green bubble of privacy! BUT we’re trying to implement the Italian aesthetic and utility as we go. And by the way, jasmine is a MUST. Every garden I’m in has it. It grows easily and quickly and fills the air with a soft scent that makes you forget you’re in the middle of a downtown concrete jungle.

Here are a few more pictures I’ve captured around town of beautiful outdoors spaces:

Above: A lovely ristorante that, like almost every single bar/cafe/restaurant in Italy, has a beautiful patio space for dining al fresco. You quickly realize while in Italy that most places don’t have or use their air conditioning, so dining al fresco is practically a necessity when sharing a dining room with a wood-fire pizza oven in the summer makes it impossible to enjoy your meal.

Fountains and water features are a staple. I bet Italians would sneer at the simple water spouts tacked to the sides of our American homes. Why have such an eyesore when you can install a beatiful water feature like this to water your flowers from? They even have super simple inexpensive ones at the local “home depot” type stores that you can “install” in minutes and hook up to your spigot. A very Italian way to dress up your exterior!

Shrines like this to Catholic saints and deceased loved ones are very typical in the sides of homes, buildings, or built into a wall around your property. I love the rustic concrete work and the ivy and this beautiful vase full of flower that they refresh every few days.

If the Old World aesthetic is making you swoon, here are a couple of elements that I took from Heathertique’s shop and arranged into my fantasy Italian garden…maybe you can incorporate a few items into your current space to create a villa-esque backyard retreat of your own!

Outdoor hanging chair

Moroccan furniture

13 views0 comments
bottom of page