Lemons tend to be associated with the Mediterranean, conjuring up sunny images of Tuscan terraces lined with potted lemon trees. However, the true origins of the citrus tree, particularly the species Citrus limon, remain a mystery.
Some believe it came from India, while others say it originated in China, before being brought to Europe during the Crusades. Other sources claim that lemon trees arrived much earlier, with Alexander the Great introducing the first plants to Greece and excavations at Pompeii revealing that lemons were cultivated there by the Romans around AD 79.
By the 16th century, the lemon was well-established as an ornamental and medicinal plant in Italian horticulture. Its profile was raised by Cosimo de' Medici, who used images of the fruit both on the family crest and as adornment on his Florentine villas, notably the Villa di Castello.
Today the gardens at the villa are home to one of the most important collections of citrus plants in the world. In the 17th century the limonaia, or lemon house, was introduced to over-winter pots of lemons.