When people come to Marbella they go to Puerto Banús, the Casco Antiguo and the Fishermen's Port, they visit the white villages, Sierra Nevada and Ronda. What they never miss is Villa Tiberio and its world famous setting.
Surrounded by trees, lush palms and semi-tropical vegetation, the grounds at the internationally known restaurant are a blaze of colour, with magenta bougainvillea creeping over pergolas, red roses clustered on bushes and lilac blossom in full bloom on centuries' old trees. Unusual cacti nestle in flowerbeds alongside petunia and geraniums. Large, ripe lemons hang from trees near the entrance. Endless varieties of large and small palms sway softly in the breeze. Shrubs teased into organic shapes round the pool are juxtaposed between classical statuary and Moroccan lanterns.
It is quiet, peaceful, therapeutic - a wildly appealing enclave in the heart of a bustling metropolis. It is also a tribute to nature, to the Mediterranean, to the undying beauty of exotic flora and one man's vision that turned a tumbledown old villa surrounded by weeds into an Italian palazzo in Southern Europe.
Owner Sandro Morelli's love affair with his gardens began 18 years ago when he came to Marbella and fell in love with its beauty and simplicity. Instead of opening a restaurant in Newport Beach as originally planned, he decided to find the right setting and settle on the coast. It took a year to restructure the property and landscape the gardens. The result is, understandably, one of the most talked about venues on the coast where al fresco dining encourages romance. Think moonlight, the scent of lilies clinging to night air, Pavarotti singing in the background. It's as good as it gets, baby.