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Petals & Paintings: Escape the cold at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

BOSTON -- Step inside a Venetian palace not far from the heart of Boston. Find comfortable rooms filled with world-class Renaissance art. This is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, named for an amazing women with a passion for the arts.

"She was ahead of the game in terms of collecting, so she bought some Rembrandts, a Boticelli, a Michelangelo," explains Christina Nielsen, the William and Lia Poorvu Curator of the Collection and Exhibition Program. "She brought the world here to Boston and put it in this little jewel box."

The galleries are meant to look like rooms in a home. The museum opened in 1903.

"Her mission was to share beauty," says Nielsen. "She thought people in the country and the city of Boston really needed to see beauty and that would inspire them, educate them, uplift them."

Head to the center of the museum and find an incredibly beautiful space illuminated by a sky light and filled with lush plants and flowers.

"We call it the 'a-ha moment,'" says Nielsen. "This space literally takes people’s breath away. You can sketch, you can daydream, read a book."

A stunning courtyard is considered the center and the soul of the museum. Visitors feels transported, especially during the cold weather. Interestingly, every plant you see is potted and the flowers change eight to nine times a year, depending on the season.

"In April, we have nasturtiums literally hanging from the balconies. So, that’s a magnificent time to come," says Nielsen.

Jennifer Swenson of New Hampshire was moved by the serene mood of the courtyard. "It’s very beautiful, very breathtaking," she said.

The museum is also the site of the largest art heist in U.S. history. Thirteen items, worth an estimated 500 million dollars, were stolen.

"It’s an ongoing investigation and, really, we are very hopeful that someday we will welcome those works back to the collection," says Nielsen.

Meanwhile, the Gardner is celebrating the success of a recent addition including a library, cafe and performance space. The modern design is juxtaposed against the classic museum and signals a dialogue between the past and present.

"It’s special. It’s not what you think of a museum. She integrated gardens, plants, she saw art everywhere," says Rhona Mitchell of New Hampshire, who recently brought her two children to the museum.

Click here for information about a new contemporary exhibit called "Listen Hear: The Art of Sound."

Admission to the museum is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, age 65 and up.  Check out this link for more information.