Monthly Archives: August 2016

Secret gardens of Venice

We had a wonderful holiday in Italy in May, and in my eternal quest to find green spaces where ever we go, here is my favourite place in Venice……the magical island of Guidecca.

 

Guidecca is a pencil thin island not far across the water from St Mark’s Cathedral. As we arrived on the vaparetto, the rain stopped, the sun came out, the coffee shops opened and the touches of greenery could be seen along the canal.

IMG_2437 (1024x951)

 

 

IMG_2443 (994x1024)

 

IMG_2468 (1024x857)

We were lucky enough to meet up with Tudy Sammartini, a long time resident of Venice, a designer and passionate gardener, and author to three books; Secret Gardens of Venice, Floors of Venice and the Bell Towers of Venice. Tudy was our guide, and had an intimate knowledge of all the gardens we visited in Guidecca.

IMG_2491 (1024x872)

In the 16th Century Guidecca was the centre of trade and horticultural discovery. The whole region was very fertile, and full of orchids, vineyards and gardens of rare exotics.

The two gardens of Guidecca we visited are part of the Hotel Bauer, and Hotel Cipriani.

The first garden had been restored to its former glory by Francesca Bortolotto Possati, the owner of the Hotel Bauer on the island.

IMG_2570 (1024x879)

A very old olive tree still thrives in the grounds of the hotel, testimony to its historic past.

IMG_2575 (1024x958)

Historic documents record orchards and vineyards too, and fruit trees can be seen around the gardens today.

IMG_2615 (1024x727)

The lawns are cut at three different heights, the first is closely trimmed for visitors to walk along, the second is slightly higher, and the third is left to grow wild as a meadow.

IMG_2577 (1024x808)There are over 200  different kinds of ancient roses throughout the garden, and together with all the other blossoms on this sunny spring day, the birds and the bees were enjoying this garden as much as we were.

IMG_2591 (1024x753)

 

IMG_2589 (1024x833)

 

IMG_2607 (1024x847)

There is a pergola with Isabella grapes and roses. At the base is lavender, and the rest of the garden is full of  Iris, catnip, columbine roses, and grasses.

IMG_2595 (1024x853)

Small herb gardens surround the pergola.

IMG_2611 (1024x646)

 

IMG_2619 (1024x691)

Here is another ”room” to the gardens. The tall trees and greenery make this a place  of peace and reflection.

IMG_2621 (1024x752)

Nearby is the Hotel Cipriani where the wife of the CXVIII Doge designed her Renaissance garden.

IMG_2626 (1024x643)

The vineyard of ‘Refosco’ Merlot and Cabernet grapes still thrives in the rear garden of the hotel, and the grapes  provide plenty of wine for the hotel cellars.

IMG_2629 (1024x639)

Casanova was said to have courted the young novice Caterina Capretta in this very vineyard.  Imagine Casanova today……… the tweet goes out, and millions of followers would know his whereabouts in two minutes!

The vegetable and herb gardens of this hotel were well looked after……here is a member of the kitchen staff snipping herbs for the lunch time menu…. impossible to get much fresher than that!

IMG_2640 (1024x930)

Around the pond is a statue of the young Sea God Triton, on his sea horse, looking out onto the waters of Venice.

IMG_2647 (1024x590)

And so ended our tour of the gardens of Guidecca.

Here is a last glimpse of the island as we crossed the bridge to wait for the vaparetto.

This was a day to be remembered.

IMG_2461 (1024x799)Our warmest thanks go to Tudy Sammartini, her affection and passion for the Guidecca gardens was obvious.

Salute Tudy!

And just as I write this, all those in Italy affected by the earthquake this week, are very much in our thoughts.

Farewell to a wonderful country, and salute to the people, the places, the food, and of course….the green spaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sicilian Garden from a Golden Age

IMG_3337 (1024x859)

Before Canberra bursts into spring, I have a couple of posts to show of our trip to Italy in May……so welcome to Villa Giulia, the first public park in Palermo, opened in 1778.

On a warm morning, after a long walk through the city, we decided to stroll around this inviting shady park rather than go to the Botanical Gardens, right next door. Botanical gardens need stamina, and more time than we had that day.

Sicily was first settled by the Phoenicans in the 8th century, then conquered by the Romans, the Arabs and the Normans. The buildings and gardens reflect this rich history.

IMG_3381 (1024x822)

The wide avenues and tall palms made this park seem cool, inviting and exotic, full of flowers and shrubs reminiscent of my childhood in Central Africa, where the climate is equally hot in summer.

I loved the Lantana Cultivar, the blaze of orange flowers making a a colourful hedge. Some red Hibiscus flowers are growing between the palms, and in the background the seemingly ever flowering purple Bougainvillea.

IMG_3341 (1024x800) (2)

 

IMG_3389 (1024x662)

Parks in the 1700s were considered a reflection of the city’s wealth and prosperity, and were designed by artists, architects, scholars and dreamers of a golden age.

IMG_3354 (1024x653)

These are exedra, and they were intended for musical performances. The colours and the mosiacs have no doubt been restored, but it still withstands the test of time, and looks wonderful.IMG_3355 (1024x693)The site is near the seafront and the park is based on a square, geometrically designed. The Dodecahedron fountain is at the heart of the garden, and the marble clock created by mathematician Lorenzo Federici – each face of the dodecahedron featuring a sundial.

IMG_3368 (1024x594)

The statue of Atlas is set in the centre of a circular fountain. Atlas was the god of endurance and astronomy.

Imagine an astronomer and a mathematican being consulted on the design of a park today!

IMG_3373 (1024x764)

Over time some of the plants have been renewed and the trees lining this path below look quite young and healthy.  They are known as Judas trees, and  can also be found in the National Arboretum in Canberra. The name possibly came from the French common name, Arbre de Judee, meaning the tree of Judea, the region where the tree is commonly grown, on stony arid slopes.

IMG_3348 (1024x731)

The flat ripening pods turn from green to bright red, giving extra colour to the park.

IMG_3351 (1024x768)

On the left hand-side of this path is the Italian pine (pino domestic) which is very common in Palermo and gives welcome shade in the summer.

IMG_3353 (1024x734)

Villa Giulia is an oasis in the teeming city of Palermo, and a lasting legacy to the enlightened times of its Golden Age.

…and, as we leave, another tree to remind me of Africa and Australia…

Who could resist stopping to take a photo of a flowering Jacaranda tree?

IMG_3403 (1024x998)

Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved