Italy  2011

June 7, 2011 Tuesday

After breakfast visit today one of the largest nurseries in the Pistoia area: ZELARI; here ornamental plants are cultivated over a surface of approx. 150 hectares and daily 16-wheeled lorries bulging with all manner of leafy plants make their way to most countries throughout Europe. In order to always remain competitive Zelari is constantly researching new plants and innovative ways of growing them. Zelari is known not only for plant cultivation but also for garden design: designing a garden requires a range of notions, which involve not only
botany but also architecture, engineering, the study of the landscape and the climate. Before the guided visit to the nursery we enjoyed an overview on garden designing and some of their projects.

For todays’s lunch we take you to a local restaurant with a fantastic scenic view: LA FORESTERIA – set top hill in the tiny medieval village of Monsummano Alto. The scenic view is not the only trademark of this rustic-elegant place: refined Tuscan cuisine and very friendly service are at home here as well as we discovered. We met a wonderful old lady who lives up here and just take a look at her garden. We were all so taken with it and she was so happy to discover that we were all garden lovers as well. Those are her chickens.

In the afternoon we head to PESCIA. The town of Pescia takes its name after the river which divides it in two parts and which makes it cool and pleasant for visits especially during the spring and summer. The Medici family was very important for this city. Leone X - Medici's Pope - erected its first parish in 1519 and then the same family improved its economy. The main economy in the past was from water, in fact paper, leather and silk were their main sources. Today Pescia lives on flower cultivation and tourism. It was a refined noblewoman, Elisa Baciocchi, princess of Lucca, who suggested to her illustrious brother, Napoleone Bonaparte, that he use the handmade watermarked paper produced in Pescia to print the invitation cards for his wedding with Archduchess Maria from Austria in 1810. Even outstanding artists have chosen this precious paper for their creations, such as Picasso and Annigoni, or writers for their publications, such as Gabriele D’Annunzio. Still today, this valuable paper is produced for prestigious purposes. It has a typical row of houses which start from the top of the hill and end at Villa Garzoni: this villa and its baroque garden "All'Italiana" was designed and made during 17th century together with the villa and has been enriched in the following century with statues and magnificent fountains.

Hesperidarium Citrus Garden: this is a unique, international-standard garden bringing together over 200 varieties of citrus plants and will surprise visitors with a new and fascinating route featuring gigantic fruits: digitate and corniculate, spherical and elongated, with variegated, diverse leaf colours, and aromas and colours from all corners of the world. A real botanical garden where visitors can admire and learn more about citrus plants and it is also a particularly inviting opportunity for non-expert visitors. “Hesperidarium” is not just a citrus grove, but a true botanic park where you will admire the ancient cultivars of the Medici collections dating back to the 16th century, rare and exotic varieties from the Far East and new species from the austral hemisphere. The inside park will astonish visitors along a path that weaves a dreamlike web, with its alleys, special water effects, leafy tunnels and large constructions inspired from the fable of Pinocchio. This scrupulous collection focuses on biodiversity and, in order to enhance its consistency and selections, the park supports the activity carried out by the Slowfood Center of the Chinotto (myrtle leaf orange) from Savona, and where a specimen of this plant that is threatened with extinction is also on display. Native to China, this plant generates an astonishing quantity of flowers and fruit, leaves of an intense and distinct scent and is used to prepare delicious candies. ‘In fact by visiting the extraordinary Citrus Fruit Garden in which one can admire over two hundred varieties that the family has collected it is possible to gain a concrete concept of Biodiversity which appears to be gravely threatened today. An extraordinary richness of shapes and colour charaeterize a path, where, between an Australian desert citrus fruit and a strange variety of fruits in the shape of a hand, help to form a beautiful exhibition in themselves along with the sculptured outlines of Pinocchio who was created a few steps from here.’

By the end of the visit a drink with snack will be arranged just for us!

With a short drive we reach the little village Collodi. Collodi is famous throughout the world for having given its name to CARLO COLLODI the pen-name of CARLO LORENZINI (1826-90), Italian author and journalist, best-known as the creator of Pinocchio the wooden boy puppet who came to life. His nose grew larger when he told a lie and returned to normal size when he told the truth. The story has inspired many film makers, among them Walt Disney, whose animation from 1943 is well known. The Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce remarked that "the wood out of which Pinocchio is carved is humanity itself". Collodi is the name of the little village in Tuscany where his mother was born. He was born in Florence, the son of a cook and a servant, and spent his childhood as much in the rough and tumble of the streets of his native Florence as in the classroom. No doubt this stood him in
good stead in his two periods as a soldier - once in 1848 when Tuscany rose in revolt against its Habsburg rulers, and again in the war between Italy and Austria in1859. Collodi started his writing career as a newspaperman: he wrote for other papers, and also started his own satirical paper Il Lampione (The Lantern) - but the government closed it down. Later he became a government official himself, working as a civil servant for the education department and trying to push through much-needed educational reforms. In the 1850s, he began to have a variety of both fiction and non-fiction books published. Once, he translated some French fairy-tales so well that he was asked whether he would like to write some of his own. The result was his first major success, Giannettino, which is a kind of educational fairlytale. He now devoted himself to writing for children" because adults are too hard to please"! In 1881, he sent to a friend, who edited a newspaper in Rome, a short episode in the life of a wooden puppet, wondering whether the editor would be interested in publishing this "bit of foolishness" in his children's section. The editor did, and the children loved it. The adventures of Pinocchio were serialized in the paper in 1881-2, and then published in 1883 with huge success. The fist English-language version was just as successful on its publication in 1892. The 1940 Walt Disney cartoon has ensured that the character of Pinocchio remains familiar: but the book is far richer in the details of the adventures of the naughty puppet in search of boyhood.

The name Pinocchio is a Tuscan word meaning "pine nut" (the standard Italian term is pinolo pronounced)

I also was happy to see they still have the nougat that I loved from my trip earlier.

Now, our visit to the GARDEN OF VILLA GARZONI with an expert in garden architecture. This is a splendid baroque garden, which rates among the very few in Europe that can still be seen and appreciated as it was originally: a triumph of water and greenery, fountains, waterfalls, terracing, geometrical flowerbeds, staircases and decorum! The garden dates back to the 17th century, but it was embellished with statues and magnificent fountains in the following century. The garden can be considered a "work of art of rare delicacy where the greenery, flights of steps, spraying fountains and statues form a unique structure" (Pedreschi). Extending on a different axis from that of the Villa, the lower section of the garden opens onto a parterre in the French style, adorned with flowerbeds, statues and two large round ponds. After a transition to the first terrace, an elegant double flight of steps leads up to the three upper terraces, in perfect harmony with the shape of the land. Above, at the top of a "stairway of water" flanked by two female figures representing the eternal rivals Lucca and Florence, lies the statue of Fame blowing into a shell from which there springs a jet of spray that arches high into the air.
This is the classic route to follow for a visit to the Villa, but innumerable other trails can be discovered running through the parkland, offering curious vistas and surprises: among the various grottos, the grotto di Nettuno ("Neptune's grotto") is particularly delightful, with its unpredictable and mischievous water spouts, but the real jewel of the garden is the Teatrino (Little Theatre), at whose sides the statues of Comedy and Music can be admired.

The Maze is also very interesting, and is one of the rare examples still to be found in Tuscan villas; one can also visit the highly original Edificio dei Bagni (Bath House), which boasts distinct sections for men and women, but also has a common bathing room intended as an area for encounters, to the sound of music, with the musicians tucked away out of view so that they would be unable to catch sight of goings-on in the bath-house. Finally, there are countless statues of tufa stone and terracotta, often copies of baroque or Hellenistic originals, but also depicting beggars, farmers, small monkeys, turkeys, etc. in a naturalistic pose.

Returned to the hotel and rest of the time at leisure.



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