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  • Day4

    Ninfa

    May 10, 2015 in Italy ⋅ 19 °C

    Today is our Ruby Wedding Anniversary and we can think of no finer place to be on such an occasion than Ninfa. This is the garden we had been waiting to see more than any other and it certainly did not disappoint.
    The land surrounding Ninfa was given to yet another Pope in the 1100s and a small medieval village was built here. It became very wealthy for its time, because of the tax it could generate, in order to use the road that bypassed the swamp land blocking the route South (the Appian Way). The Caetani family purchased the area in the late Middle Ages and it has remained in their hands to the present day. The village was destroyed during one of the many skirmishes that brewed at the time and the family could never afford to rebuild it. Instead, some 100 years ago they decided to create a garden in this perfect microclimate.
    It is billed as an English garden and the most romantic garden in the world and I wouldn’t argue with that! . There is no house here to marvel at, just a garden, but what a garden, planted around the ruins of the village of Ninfa. A series of tall slim Italian cypresses mark what was the Main Street and give solid green height and structure to the garden. A small river and a series of streams run through its sheltered site and wherever you look are seemingly unplanned vistas that just delight the eye to such an extent, there is very little talking, because most of us were quite overcome. We arrived at what is arguably the best time of year, as the wisteria, peonies, late spring flowers and of course the roses are in full bloom. I have never seen such roses. They cascade over the ruins with such vigour, a mass of flower and beauty. The perfume that hangs in the air is fabulous, not just from the roses, but also flowering stephanotis, and the orange blossom on the trees. There are many rare plants here to be exclaimed over that have been brought from around the world and are able to survive in the perfect conditions to be found here. Frosts are unheard of, due to the proximity to the sea and the protection from the surrounding mountain range. The soil is very fertile and there is plenty of water and the humidity high. The ideal gardening conditions and plants grow unbelievably quickly - I am so jealous!
    We emerged after two and a half hours exalted and yet somewhat subdued, almost as if one had been granted a papal audience. To have the chance to view such perfection is rare and to be savoured.
    Speaking of the Pope we moved on to have a picnic lunch and gelato by the shores of Lake Albani. A beautiful spot, but heaving with half of the inhabitants of Rome, or so it seemed and then moved on to have a look at the summer Papal residence at Castel Gandolpho. Sadly, his holiness was apparently tied up with Raoul Castro, trying to effect Cuba's return to the free world. Such a shame he couldn't have put it off until tomorrow to greet us on our special day - but I suppose we cannot be too disappointed as for one thing we're not Catholic and secondly we had had our miracle for the day!
    As a postscript the only issue has been the cancellation of our stay at the second hotel the Palazzo Grazioli, which has been a disappointment. We have been accommodated nearby, but not with such style. However, we have taken our meals in fine fashion at the Grazioli, which if anything has made the comparison worse, but tonight certainly proved a treat. On arrival, we had prosecco and canapés in the garden with the rest of the garden gang to celebrate our Anniversary and watched the sunset over Rome from the balcony. We remarked to Claudio, the head waiter, that we were pleased to escape yet another rowdy party at our hotel and he rolled his eyes in true Italian fashion and said they were in the middle of a Toga party in the hotel and the evening could prove interesting and how right he was. It emerged that the participants were 55 Swedish software engineers, of both genders I may add, who came dressed for the part and following dinner congregated in the bar next to room where we were eating and in the salon for a thumping disco. We had to keep making excuses to nip out and view the sights and what sights they were! I can assure you that the toga is not for everyone. On the young and nubile with gladiator sandals and dressed hair a toga is more than acceptable, on the more senior members of the party, perhaps not so. The sight of two guys propped up at the bar with the requisite toga, fake gold laurel leaves on their heads, one with a tee shirt underneath (just in case!) and the other with coconut matting on display was more than I could stand. On glancing downward in an attempt to hide my hysteria, what should I encounter but formal black shoes and toning socks. Hysteria threatened to bubble over and I retreated back to our table in double quick time. It does beg the question, what on earth are 55 Swedish software experts are doing here in Tivoili dressing up as Romans? Don't answer that, I'm sure we can all supply an answer!!
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