Monthly Archives: August 2016

A Sicilian Garden from a Golden Age

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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Copyright Geraldine  Mackey. All rights reserved