20 November 2011


And so out to stack wood. Dear, funny Elisa Faleburle came grinning with her tip truck yesterday evening after dusk and dumped 18 quintals – that’s 1.8 metric tonnes or 35.4 UK hundredweight or 39.7 US hundredweight or 283.5 UK stone: automatic conversion sites are such fun – on the lawn outside the chicken house. She’s a tiny thing, driving hunking great trucks full of wood for the Impresa Boschiva Faleburle – literally, the Bosky Enterprise He Plays Tricks – and her once- or twice-yearly visits are always a joy… though less so their consequences.

L immediately declared that Sunday (today) had to be a day of very hard deadline-meeting work for him, and he didn’t have a minute to be outside. Which means that the woodsprawl – or that rather large part of it that we didn’t manage to stack neatly last night in the cold and dark – now falls to me. Which probably explains why I’m sitting here in the warm kitchen, thinking of crucial things to do, rather than going outside where I should be.

Between logs I must also do some watering. How very strange to be thinking of water in late November. But my poor cavolo nero needs it in its sunny exposed spot by the car park. There hasn’t been a drop of rain. Little blobs keep appearing on weather forecasts for days hence but by the time that day gets nearer, the blobs have been removed, which makes me suspect that perhaps the weather people just put them there to give us all some hope and keep our spirits up – that in fact they know full well that there’s no rain in the offing at all. There’s plenty of dew though now, and thick frosts down in the field each morning. But that melts away very quickly in the sun.


The public was given its first chance to take a look at our garden in Spello last weekend, when the local Unesco club stuck a rather lacklustre exhibit in the big reception rooms on the ground floor. According to Peter, the garden looked splendid: thank goodness for Mauro, San Giuseppe’s calm and inexorable gardener who had everything pristine for the event. And the whole thing was done was great taste and verve: the Campis and their team look after their image assiduously.

But I missed the whole shebang because we went off to Venice. It was, ostensibly, work for L, and we did do some very arduous eating in smart restaurants and checking out new hotels and rental apartments. But in between, we just basked in Venice which looked jewel-like in this piercing sunshine, its colours all glowing crisply with extraordinary brilliance.

And I found time to do those things which I consider truly, essentially Venetian, such as going to Mascari by the Rialto market to stock up on all kinds of loose-leaf tea – tea bags being one of my pet hates. And drinking spritz at every possible opportunity.

There seemed to be few people around (strangely, because we had trouble finding anywhere to stay on the Saturday night) except in the Biennale which we had rushed up there to see before it closes its doors in a week’s time. I’m getting more tolerant towards contemporary art: not so much of it makes me angry any more – some gives me food for thought. The rest simply leaves me indifferent or makes me laugh. Much more indulgent.

The Biennale gardens were packed with youth – art students I presume, who were making the same kind of last-minute dash that we were. There were some interesting videos and great photos. “Wow! Look over there! Paint!” L said to me at one point which more or less summed up the choice of preferred media. The exhibit which won this year’s Golden Lion was a piece called The Clock, by US artist Christian Marclay – totally enthralling and gripping. Twenty-four hours’ worth of snippets of time-referential scenes from movies all spliced together to tell the time. I had trouble tearing myself away – though in the end we had to because there was a free concert at La Fenice and as we both realised that neither of us had ever set foot in La Fenice, we thought we’d better seize the moment.

The concert was nothing to write home about, the theatre yes. Smaller than I thought, but gloriously golden and twiddly. Just lovely.

I used to say that my one problem with Venice – I mean, apart from the meanness of Venetians and their inability to run their tourist industry properly – was the fact that it was so urban: simply not enough green. But I’ve become so sensitised now to the garden spaces that there are, that I realise that the problem is not that there are no gardens (there are, in abundance) but that they’re so neglected, or badly handled. I make my slow progress around the city peering through gates and fences and just wishing that they’d let me get my hands on them. So many of these gardens are dark and dank and therefore not easy by any means. But not impossible either.

It comes as an even greater disappointment, therefore, when you’re shown one which is hailed by all and sundry (or at least by people in the hotel’s employ) as quite spectacularly lovely, and once again you find that in fact what you’re looking at is a wasted opportunity. There are three hectares of green behind the properties on the Giudecca belonging to the Bauer hotel group. And rarely have I seen a more uninspiring use of a potentially unique opportunity. I was almost ready to give it the benefit of the doubt (it was a lovely day, after all, and nice to have my feet on grass) until I saw the dreadful pretentious and utterly out-of-place sub-Scarpa swimming pool tucked at the back, at the end of one long axis. No mercy after that. What a shame.

Much more successful, while we’re on the topic of Venice’s garden hotels, is the jungle outside the very homely Oltre il Giardino. It’s lived-in and welcoming and sunny and abundant (you can see it tumbling over its wall in the central photo at the top of this post). Just what you need to re-balance your soul after pounding Venetian pavements.


About Gardens, Food & Umbria

I am a garden designer, working throughout central Italy. I have lived in Italy for over 30 years – for many years in Rome but now in the wilds of Umbria where I have fixed up one wreck of a house, am working on another, and tinker endlessly with two and a half hectares of land, some of which is my garden.
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One Response to 20 November 2011

  1. Pingback: 1 January 2013 | La Verzura

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