Villa Julia in Palermo sits facing the coast and uses the brisk sea air to make the perfect environment for the arid plants that thrive in this botanic garden. The forest garden techniques of planting vegetation at different levels (the oldest technique of horticulture) are referenced with Palms standing as sky scrapers looking down on hip height hedges.
Read about my earlier post about a Welsh Physic Garden here
The benches and busts of benefactors offer plenty of spots to sit and chill, even though the Summer sun is relentless. The oldest architecture around the park are of bricks and ruined foundations. The history of this square tells the worst of the Spanish Inquisition was engaged here. Italy in the late seventeenth century supported Spain in the country’s war against France. As a reward for Italy’s support Spain financed public gardens across Europe and allowed protection so the smaller Italian Islands could be inhabited.
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In the early 1600’s something magical happened in the land masses known as the Aeolian Islands. A volcano was inhabited (Stromboli) and the larger of the Islands (Lipari) became a dominant community. The need the inhabitants had for self sufficiency created the most ambitious planting scheme that also referenced the mainland Italian gardens. Most of the European designs could be traced back to the influential medieval Garden of the Vatican created by Pope Nicholas III. This started as an orchard but was revolutionary for creating a productive garden alongside ornamental architecture and planting.
Scratching the surface today over espresso in Palermo has revealed the Palms hide a tall story about the origin of the park they decorate today. Gruesome history always seems to have facilitated a burst of development that has enhanced civilisation. There are no clouds in the sky but for sure they would have a silver lining!
Find other tales of origins here