Monday, June 25, 2012

My very own Jasmine!

I found some sweet-smelling beauties for my garden, including gelsomino (jasmine)!!! My son wanted to buy me a jasmine plant for my birthday, and I'd been scouring the town, trying  to find something similar to the jasmine in Italy. After visiting three or four garden centers, I was getting very discouraged, when one of the sales people mentioned another store across town that I rarely go to. Sure enough, they had the perfect Star Jasmine plants, and I got two, since I'm a Gemini. I will have to bring them indoors for the winter, but now I have my very own gelsomino that with proper care will vine into a profusion of scented flowers.

LoLa, my twin jasmine plants (on the right is a mosaic of a tree I made some years ago).
In my search for the jasmine, I discovered that many stores were selling plants half-price, so I was able to get some great bargains on other scented lovelies. No need to miss Italy: I'll have my own perfumed garden!

Asiatic lilies.
A white gardenia bush with about 15 buds on it!
Sweet verbena that goes nicely with the rudbeckia (black-eyed susan) growing wild next to it.
Moral of the story: instead of longing for what you don't or can't have, make the most of  your own backyard!

Friday, June 22, 2012

La Bellezza: It's that wild beauty I miss!

Entrance to a nearby house in Italy: what a lovely welcome home!
Since my last post, I've returned to the States, spent three days minimizing the jungle of weeds that had sprung up in the yard during my three month absence, and plunged into 50-hour work weeks that will last until the end of June. Ergo, I've had very little time to write.

Poppies were blooming everywhere!
As people continue to ask me if  I've "adjusted" to being in Kansas again, I've been thinking about the differences between my life here versus the life I have in Italy, and am eager to share some of those thoughts in an upcoming post. For now, the biggest difference I'm noticing is the absence of wildness, the profusion of flowers, the pungent perfume of flowering trees and bushes that were so prevalent. I miss the vibrant views and scents that are a constant at this time of year in Italy. When I take walks here, I see square yards with neatly mown lawns, but there are few flowers and no scents wafting down that street, as there are in Zagarolo. Sure, we have many flowering trees in  April and May, and the city does a great job of creating vibrant displays of flowers through the summer months, but lately I've mostly seen green: trees and grass.

How I miss the profusion of fragrant Gelsomino (Jasmine)!!!
Until I have time to write at length, here are some photos I took of various plants that were blooming EVERYWHERE in Italy. From Puglia to Liguria, Veneto to Lazio, Tuscany to Basilicata, I miss the constant presence of poppies, jasmine, ginestra, roses and other blooming flowers, vines, bushes and trees that were evident during my travels this spring.

Ginestra (broom): a sweet smelling bush we don't have in Kansas
At least my yard has a  few blooming flowers, but it's a meager show compared to the wild beauty that was always on display in Italy. However, as a solace, I bought a sweet bouquet this week for only $3! The rich colors are vibrant enough to make up for the lack of any scent. I'm hoping there will be more bouquets like this to sustain me through the summer.

I'm a sucker for purple and red bouquets.
And I have a small atomizer with  the scent of flowers from the Tiglio (linden) tree that Lucia bought me last year when we visited a park in the mountains of Trentino. I spray the honeyed scent of Tiglio in my bedroom before sleeping, and it seems to sweetens my dreams. Or as they say in Italy, it brings me sogni d'oro (dreams of gold)!

Tiglio flowers (

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Villa d'Este Fountains video

Here's a video my friend Massimo made of the fountains at Villa d'Este in Tivoli when they came to visit me a few weeks ago. It really gives you a sense of the beauty of the gardens and the majesty of hundreds of fountains on display. The soundtrack provides the perfect accompaniment to the video. Bravissimo, Massimo! It's a work of art!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lerici, Liguria (by way of Parma!)

Lerici, Liguria
Last week I went to visit friends in Parma, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. I'd last seen Renata and Pietro in the fall of 2009. In 2007 and 2008, I spent several weeks as a guest at the Palazzo Ducale in Parma, so I'm very familiar with this affluent city in northern Italy. Parma is famous for many things, including its prosciutto (Parma ham) and of course, parmigiano-reggiano (parmesan cheese). The Barilla pasta factories, whose pasta products line the shelves of grocery stores in many countries (including the U.S.) are also located there. In addition, Parma is known for it opera house and annual Verdi festival, and I was able to attend a performance of Rigoletto there  in 2008.

Bike and scooters parked in Parma
After arriving about 2 pm in Parma, Renata and I set out on bicycles to tour the centro storico. This area of Italy,  known as the Pianura Padana (Po Valley), is flat, so biking is a common way to get around town in many cities of Emilia-Romagna. We rode around on cobbled streets, stopped for a gelato shaped like a rose, and visited two of my favorite parks in Italy: the Parco Ducale and the Cittadella. The Cittadella was built in the late 1500's as a pentagonal citadel, but its high walls now enclose a community park. I've previously written about the Parco Ducale, which you can read by accessing this link: Parco Ducale.

Parco Ducale, Parma, 2008
The next day, we drove to Liguria, on the western coast of Italy. Driving through the countryside was a real treat, as both the Apennini and Alpi Apuani mountain ranges were in view throughout our 90-minute drive. Our destination was the seaside village of Lerici, on the Italian Riviera.

A scene along the autostrada
It was a lovely sunny day, and since it was mid-week, there were no crowds in Lerici as there might be on the weekend. However, we did see many people sunbathing, choosing the free beaches or the rocks rather than paying for a space with an umbrella.

this beach is likely to be full on the weekend
We strolled along the lungomare (walkway by the sea), had a leisurely lunch, (the best pizza I've ever eaten!) and simply enjoyed being near the sea!

Piazza in Lerici where we had lunch
Later, we drove further down the coast, and into Tuscany, to see friends of Renata's who were visiting from Germany. They had rented a villa in Marina di Massa, another seaside town. On the way, we passed by the famous mountains of Carrara, where marble is mined. It is well known that Michelangelo came here to choose the marble for his sculptures, but the same marble was used in ancient Rome to build the Pantheon and Trajan's Column. 

The mountains of Carrara, with blocks of marble in the foreground
I'm very thankful to Renata and Pietro for their hospitality, generosity and companionship during my short stay in Parma. I look forward to more travels with them in the future!

Renata and  Pietro in Lerici