Domain Wintergardens

Lunch time was approaching as we hopped off the Hop On Hop Off bus at Parnell. Auckland’s oldest suburb, dating back to 1841, is also one of New Zealand’s most affluent. Parnell Road is lined with enticing shops, galleries and cafes

1.Parnell Road

and after an explorative stroll we had worked up a thirst.

2.Non Solo Pizza

There were a few options of dining areas

but we decided to stay roadside and enjoy a pizza before joining the bus once again.

The Domain Wintergardens was our next stop, built in the early 1900s so that the gardens could be appreciated all year round.

9.Wintergardens

We passed under shady pergolas

and entered the central courtyard which separates the two Victorian style glasshouses.

12.courtyard

Each glasshouse contains distinctly different plants. The Cool House was built first in 1921, we started in the Tropical House which was added in the late 1920s.

13.tropical house

Heated to 28°C, lush tropical plants thrive. Above the enormous lily pads

carnivorous pitcher plants are suspended, awaiting their next meal.

Foliage, intricately designed by nature,

19.tropical house

mingles with spectacular flowers only the tropics can sustain.

Neoclassical marble statues were added to the courtyard in the 1930s

and beautiful water lilies float in the sunken pond.

The temperate climate of the unheated Cool House affords a magnificent display of flowering plants that change with the seasons.

51.cool house

Once again, the foliage is as colourful as the flowers.

Some are less vibrant but equally impressive

and a few edible varieties complement the mix.

We noticed the crowd multiply significantly in the time we were at the gardens, the reason became obvious as we stepped outside.

62.tourists

Acquapendente

The nearest town to Montepozzo was a pleasant 4km drive away. Acquapendente, in northern Lazio, sits right at the borders of Tuscany to the west and Umbria to the east. First settled by the Etruscans, then Romans, it was established in the Middle Ages as a village and monastery by the Benedictine order. The name means “falling water” because of its vicinity to numerous small waterfalls flowing into the river Paglia. Our exploration of the town started at the Cathedral of San Sepolcro.  As far as Italian cathedrals go, it wasn’t particularly impressive from the outside. Built between 890 and 968, it was originally the church of a former Benedictine monastery, became a Romanesque church in the 12th century and eventually made it to cathedral status in 1649. Apparently, the crypt contains a blood-stained stone from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

1.Cattedrale del Santo Sepolcro

We crossed the road for a look in the tourist information centre and found a range of local products and interesting artefacts.

We continued down Via Roma

10.Via Roma

past the City Museum

11.Museo della Città

and ventured into the Church of Saints Anthony and Catherine. The 19th century façade was easy to miss but the detail inside was lovely.

12.Chiesa dei Santi Antonio e Caterina

There was no shortage of colour in the streets

16.houses

as we made our way to the Church of Saint Agostino. Yet another unassuming façade belied a fascinating interior. Founded in 1290 by the Augustinian convent, it was rebuilt in 1747 after being completely destroyed by fire a year earlier.

We passed the 19th century Boni Theatre

30.Teatro Boni

and around the corner, arrived at a beautiful piazza. The waters of Fonte del Rigombo flow from a natural spring, providing refreshment for both traveller and mount on their journey in medieval times. The fountain also became known as Mascheroni in the 19th century when the waters were framed architecturally with pilasters, cornices and grotesque masks around the water spouts.

31.Fonte del Rigombo

Cobblestoned side streets beckoned

36.Acquapendente

but we were on a mission as we reached Piazza Girolamo Fabrizio and the magnificent Town Hall.

37.Town Hall

Time for coffee & pastries,

38.pastries

the perfect setting to relax and watch the world go by.

Suitably replenished, we ambled further, enjoying the sights, sounds and sunshine.

66.strolling

Throughout our rambling, we had noticed huge portrait paintings that appeared randomly on walls where least expected. They are entries in the Street Art section of The Urban Vision Festival, a two day festival each July that began in 2015.

82.Urban Vision

Just past the hospital,

at the end of the town, we were rewarded with a spectacular vista across verdant countryside.

86.view87.view

resplendent roses

There is no better place to stop and smell the roses than Victoria State Rose Garden.

1.main entrance

Developed in stages from 1986 to 2001, over 5,000 rose bushes flourish in the 5 hectare garden and are all tended by volunteers. The main part of the garden is set out in the shape of a Tudor Rose, wide paths separate the five petals and a gazebo marks the centre.

2.gazebo

We wandered amongst the blooms, boggled by the variety and colours.

13.gazebo

Beyond the Tudor Rose, there is an area shaped as a leaf and one as a bud. The leaf celebrates horticultural achievements of Australian rose growers since 1900 and comprises 50 bushes especially bred for Australia’s sunny conditions.

The bud-shape highlights over 60 cultivars of David Austin roses.

22.roses

A 400 metre long Heritage Rose Border contains 250 types of old and species roses.

31.roses

The best time to see the roses is during the summer months but we weren’t disappointed with the splendour on offer in the middle of June.

32.rose garden

glorious garden

Three weeks ago, we attended the official opening of the flowering season at Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. A glorious spring morning was a wonderful surprise after a number of inclement days. Enjoying delicious sandwiches and scones, we were entertained by David Turner while taking in the view from the balcony across Lakes Grebe and Pearl.

1.Lake Grebe2.Lake Grebe & Lake Pearl3.Lake Pearl

Edgar the emu dressed for the occasion.

Following a welcome and introduction from garden manager, Geoff Wood, and an entertaining speech by Bill Lawson AM, we set off in the sunshine to explore.

14.path

Though still early in the season, there were some spectacular blooms.

The main gazebo was just visible through the foliage.

19.main gazebo

We passed the colourful Chinese Pavilion

24.Chinese Pavilion25.Chinese Pavilion

and crossed the Japanese footbridge

26.Japanese foot bridge

to the ceremonial teahouse.

28.Japanese Tea House

It would be a lovely setting for a picnic,

on the edge of the tranquil Sea of Japan.

30.Sea of Japan

The path to the Japanese covered bridge

33.Japanese Covered Bridge

was edged with more floral delights.

The bridge overlooks the Sea of Japan, an island affords a peaceful haven to enjoy a spot of fishing.

44.Japanese covered bridge

41.island, Sea of Japan

Across the lawn, a stone pathway leads back to the tea house.

45.Japanese Tea House

The lawned area adjacent to the covered bridge is a popular wedding venue, it’s easy to see why.

46.Sea of Japan

A few cherry blossoms were blooming in readiness for the Cherry Blossom Celebration on 19th October.

47.Cherry blossom

The American Gazebo rests sedately on the shore of Lake Pearl.

We returned to the tea rooms

50.Tea rooms

around the edge of Lake Grebe,

52.fountain, Lake Grebe51.Tea rooms

across Olympus Bridge.

53.Olympus Bridge57.Olympus Bridge

As if the day hadn’t already been perfect, we spied a platypus cavorting in the lake. These elusive creatures are not easy to see in their natural habitat and equally difficult to photograph.

If you haven’t yet visited Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden now is the best time, until the end of November, to see these magnificent blooms.

Tramonte Trails

On an overcast morning, we set off to explore the walking trails around the Villa Boccella estate. The Old Tramonte walk follows part of the old road from Ponte a Moriano to the village of Tramonte.

We passed the main villa

3.Villa Boccella

and as we continued up the hill, the views would have been spectacular on a clear day.

4.Old Tramonte walk

I don’t know what was in the cute stone shed but it looked as though the firewood was well seasoned.

We stayed on the main path with an Acacia forest to our right

7.Acacia forest

and pine walk to our left.

8.Pine walk

Sporadic wildflowers added colour to the verdant setting.

The last thing we expected to find in the Tuscan countryside was bamboo.

15.Bamboo walk

We followed Bamboo Walk until, eventually, the woodland changed as we descended along Valley Walk.

16.Bamboo walk

20.Valley walk

Beautiful irises bloomed sporadically in the sheltered lowland.

The track led to the road, Via Tramonte, at the edge of the estate

and we could see the main villa

25.Villa Boccella

and Limonaia Piccola through the gates.

26.Limonaia Piccola

We followed the stone walled boundary of the grounds,

27.stone wall

past a patch of magnificent wild poppies,

28.poppies

to the entrance that would return us to the limonaie.

31.Via Tramonte

There was another walk that would have taken us across the river

32.River walk33.bridge34.river35.bridge

but lunch time was approaching, it would have to wait for another day.