The Chelsea Flower Show is on the tip of every green-fingered and floral fanatics lips this week, so what better time to share with you an inspiring female entrepreneur whose pioneering business GGI Grandi Giardini Italiani (which translates to Great Italian Gardens) Italy’s most prestigious garden network celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Founded by Judith Wade, GGI work with 124 gardens across 12 regions of Italy both privately owned and state run to help increase the number of visitors. Twenty years ago cultural tourism for Italian gardens was limited, Judith founded GGI fuelled by her passion to help garden owners to realise the potential of the beautiful gardens across Italy.
Castello Ruspoli Garden- Grandi Giardini Italiani
The GGI network features some of the finest gardens in the world, including the grounds of the Vatican, three British owned locations, Villa Hanbury in Ventimiglia, La Mortella in Ischia and Villa Taranto in Lake Maggiore. I caught up with Judith t hear a bit more about her business:
Tell us a bit about your business?
My business is called Grandi Giardini Italiani- a brand name for the finest gardens in Italy and at the same time, some of the most important gardens in the history of art. We promote horticultural tourism in Italy.
What inspired you to set up your business? Why Italy?
I have worked in the tourist trade for over 30 years and I felt that tourists knew very little of the opportunities of visiting and perhaps also staying in some of the most beautiful gardens in Italy.
Giardini Botanici di Villa Taranto- Grandi Giardini Italiani
Why Italy? Because it has one of the finest historical heritages of gardens and they had little help. Therefore I had a business opportunity. Horticultural Tourism is expanding in Italy. In England there are already very good organisations so there was no room for me.
Do you have a favourite Italian garden?
I would lose my job if I said which was my favourite garden! I can say however that there are several gardens in Italy made by English families: Villa Taranto, Villa Hanbury, La Mortella and Villa della Pergola.
How do you see your business developing in the next 5 years?
I would like to be the first company that deals with culture to be quoted on the stock exchange. Culture is the longest lasting asset we have in Europe.
Isola del Garda, Photo by Eric Sander- Grandi Giardini Italiani
As an independent businesswoman, what has been the biggest struggle you’ve faced?
The biggest struggle as a business woman is when my competitors are Foundations, Associations and Clubs, it is difficult as they make you feel like an intruder. I believe that tourism is a service that could be done better and create qualified jobs at the same time.
Any advice/pearls of wisdom for entrepreneurs?
Never give up! Try to work in a business that coincides with your passion or at least with a personal inclination. My love of gardens helped me battle my way through all the bureaucracy involved in having a business. Being an entrepreneur and a women wasn’t easy in Italy but the satisfaction of having sold 8 million tickets a year means that many people out there appreciate the job Grandi Giardini Italiani has done over the years.