The Wildest Place on Earth

Italian Gardens and the Invention of Wilderness

John Hanson Mitchell

This is the ironic story of how Italian Renaissance and Baroque gardens encouraged the preservation of the American wilderness and ultimately fostered the creation of the world’s first national park system. Told via Mitchell’s sometimes disastrous and humorous travels—from the gardens of southern Italy up through Tuscany and the lake island gardens—the book is filled with history, folklore, myths, and legends of Western Europe, including a detailed history of the labyrinth, a common element in Renaissance gardens. In his attempt to understand the Italian garden in detail, Mitchell set out to create one on his own property—with a labyrinth.

Paper: $19.95 | E-book: $14.99
ISBN-13: 9781611687200
Pages: 216 | Size: 6 in. x 8.5 in.
Date Published: April 22, 2015


  • I cannot imagine anyone reading this fine little book without beginning to form some really big plans.

    Boston Globe
  • A stimulating read, like a maze you can venture in and out, unlike one in which you can choose which route to take depending on what part of your imagination you wish to exercise. A clew is not a clue, but a sure marker that will guide you in and out of the labyrinth; each clew in this book is accompanied by an apt quote and sketched vignette. An excellent and enjoyable way of analysing your own definitions of wild and manmade landscapes.

    Landscape History
  • I read the book straight through with enormous mounting pleasure and deepening admiration. It’s extremely original, beautifully written, and full of provocative ideas.

    Michael Pollan

About the Author

John Hanson Mitchell

John Hanson Mitchell is the author of five books based on a single square mile known as Scratch Flat, as well as two travel books and the biography of the early African American landscape photographer Robert A. Gilbert. A winner of the John Burroughs Award for his nature essays, Mitchell was founder and editor of Sanctuary magazine, published by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. In 2000 he won the New England Book Award in nonfiction for his Scratch Flat series. He lives in …

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