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  • Day1

    Villa Lante & the Sacred Wood of Bomarzo

    May 7, 2015 in Italy ⋅ 20 °C

    We travelled for an hour and a half through exquisite countryside before arriving at Villa Lante around 10 o’clock. Our guide this morning is called Luca and he was able to explain the origins of the garden and its structure. It was built in the 1500s by two of the bishops of Viterbo, Cardinals Gambini and Montalcino, in the days when being a high ranking man of God was often purchased by a noble family for a son and the display of wealth and power was an essential part of the job. Keeping power within the family was all and creating a fabulous garden was very much the latest fashion and an essential for entertaining. Everything is symmetry, order and classically green, with little colour, not necessarily wanted in a climate of such heat. Water and cool contemplative areas were the object here and spectacularly achieved both for the cardinals enjoyment and their guests over the years. The inclusion of water into a garden of the High Renaissance period, said it all, the mechanics being extremely expensive to build and maintain.
    Here is a family of power and wealth and it is on display for all to see. Keeping up with the Jones’ has always been a factor in society it seems, even for men of the church!
    There are two reception orangeries lavishly decorated in fabulous trompe l'oeil scenes. The illusion they create has to be seen to be believed. The house is not open normally, because the government is struggling to maintain these immense properties and cannot afford to pay the custodians that would be necessary. Pictures on display show an interior as spectacular as their loggias. The garden rises in man made terraces from the house, with beautiful natural greenery and a great deal of clipped box and yew partares, plus the myriad of fountains, pools and rills built to compliment it. The garden is incredible now, let alone in the C15th when it was constructed. The whole estate is surrounded by hectares of woodland. This was a summer retreat for the cardinals and a hunting lodge par excellence!
    We moved on to the Sacred Wood of Bomarzo, constructed in the C16th by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini as a memorial to his wife after her death. He either shared a fantastic sense of humour with his Guila or they had a very strange relationship indeed! I suggested to Peter that he might like to consider such a scheme for me in South Wootton. His response was - 'when would you like me to start?' Seriously, the wild natural 'sacred grove' was all the rage at the time and is populated by dozens of huge sculptures of truly gigantic scale, carved from the local stone. They are both fanciful and terrible and it is a fabulous woodland walk with a difference. The garden fell into disrepair for 300 years before being rediscovered and lovingly restored by a local art lover in 1953.
    It has certainly been a day of two halves. You could not have envisaged two more contrasting gardens and the day was concluded with a gorgeous long late lunch at the sort of local restaurant you dream of. Mama does all the cooking, the pasta is freshly made daily and the vegetables grown by Papa. We sat outside under an awning, the sun shone and life was good.
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