Over the years I've often been asked to design a garden with an Italian influence. While I have been happy to do this most clients ideas of an Italian garden is far from what I have experienced and enjoyed.
Some years ago, 24-30yrs to be more accurate, I was fortunate enough to have some Italian friends that, while lived in Rome, also had a holiday home on the Amalfi coast. On occasions I would get invited to spend some time at this delightful place perched high on the hillside above Nerano.
The gardener, Pascuale, lived still farther up the hill where he even more contentedly occupied his days with his wife. (He would invite small groups to dinner and the two of them would literally stuff visitors with amazing Italian food made exclusively from herbs and plants collected from the local area and local farms.)
Anyhow, the particular point that I am wanting to make here is that Pascuale paid incredible attention to my friends garden, not so much in how it looked, but in how it felt. In this he was a natural master.
In the early morning he would spend a few hours sorting the place out after a previous evenings rain or thunderstorm before sitting down with the Spanish housekeeper for a well earned expresso or two or three....or four and then with a whistle and a song get back to work.
Pascuale felt that the ocean view should be partially hidden so that it remained interesting at all times pulling us through the garden to different spots to get a 'better, closer' look at what we were trying to see. At each opening we couldn't quite grasp the whole of what we were looking at. This kept the magic alive and meant that we never became tired of the vistas below so when we did eventually reach the water it was still new to us.
Theres no doubt that my friends were/are fortunate in having a place in such a beautiful location but it was the garden that truly, matching the style of the house and the local area made everyone 'feel at home'.
After a day at the beach or on the small boat eating fresh tomatoes and bocconcino with a trip to Capri or Positano we would all wander arm in arm back up the hillside, slide through the small gate at the bottom of the little orchard into the magic that was Pascuales 'welcome home'. We became immersed in flowers, scented shrubs, olive trees and lemon trees, soothing to the body and cooling to the mind.
So, today in Australia when people ask me about about garden design this is what I imagine : a place that 'welcomes you home' and helps you 'feel at home', a place that is comfortable and friendly like a good book or an old worn cardigan.
While I am sure he has now passed away I have spent the last 30yrs following Pascuales example and doing my best to help my clients feel as comfortable and happy with themselves in their own gardens as I did in my few visits to what I once called 'Villa Castelfranco'.
Grazie per Pascuale e la famiglia Castelfranco !
Times change of course and I am not sure what the place now holds for AirBnB visitors who are used to clinically clean modern homes and courtyards where neither leaves dare to fall nor grass dares to grow.