Parco Villa Reale

When we first visited Italy in 2014, I spent a blissful morning exploring the former estate of Napoleon’s sister, while Michael was busy building his guitar. A year later, Villa Reale di Marlia was sold and has undergone extensive restoration work. I returned with Michael this year to see the transformation. Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi purchased the 16th century villa, along with some neighbouring properties, in 1806. The reflection of the villa can be seen clearly in the pristine waters of the lake.

1.Villa Reale di Marlia2.Lago

I thought the villa was beautiful when I first saw her but she has been rejuvenated to perfection.

3.Villa Reale4.Villa Reale

The 18th century Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, protector of missionaries and tourists, has received some special treatment, too.

The statues and stonework in the Italian Garden are looking decidedly brighter

and the water now spouts from the mouths of the masks (although they don’t look too happy about it).

The mosaic work in Pan’s Grotto is much brighter than I remember but the gargoyles are just as disturbing.

The water in the Spanish garden is certainly cleaner, the fountains helping with the circulation in the main pool.

The blooms are as lovely as last time.

The scattered statues are enjoying their revival

and the rear gates have clearly been attended to.

Arno and Serchio look like new men as they relax at the end of the 17th century fish pond in the Lemon Garden.

The statues and fountain in the atrium of the Green Theatre sparkle in the sunlight

48.Fontana Teatro di Verzura

while Columbine, Pantaloon and Punchinello patiently await their audience.

50.Teatro di Verzura

The most spectacular reformation is that of the Clock House.

53.Palazzina dell' Orologio54.Palazzina dell' Orologio

The stables, kitchens and servants’ quarters around the back have been given a stunning facelift.

58.Palazzina dell' Orologio

Once again, the statues and fountains of the Water Theatre have been refreshed

and the grotto fountain springs new life.

I recall Villa del Vescovo was a magnificent building with intriguing courtyards and fabulous views across the park.

69.Villa del Vescovo

It is currently under renovation, no doubt the same attention to  detail will continue.

73.Villa del Voscovo

I guess we will have to return when it is finished. To learn more of the park and the restorations, visit the website https://www.parcovillareale.it/

Montepozzo

We have finally settled back into life in Tasmania after four wonderful weeks in Italy. I would normally write about our travels from the beginning of the trip but we were so enamoured with the gorgeous farmhouse we stayed in for our last ten days, I couldn’t wait to share it. I could just give you the link to the website because there are so many beautiful photos of the property. Chances are, just like me, you would be thinking, “there is no way this place can be this good.” It was. We received directions and information weeks before we left from host, Jacque, and had no trouble finding the gate. Although close to a town, the rural setting is very private and peaceful.

1.sign

Arriving at the property,

2.driveway arriving

we followed the instructions and drove around to the back of the house where we tooted the horn loudly.

3.exterior front4.exterior side5.exterior back6.exterior back7.exterior back

We were greeted by Molly the dog and host, John, who kindly helped us with our bags.

8.loggia arriving

After an introductory tour, we were left to unpack and wonder at the magnificent surroundings we were to enjoy for the next ten days. The living area was light and spacious, capturing the sun at every angle throughout the day.

9.sitting room

Just off the dining area, the well equipped kitchen was a pleasure to work in.

10.kitchen

The bedrooms were inviting, the main has an ensuite

11.main bedroom

and down the hallway

14.hallway

are two further bedrooms and a bathroom.

Once we had settled in, Jacque welcomed us with fresh flowers and a bottle of Prosecco, we wasted no time opening it to share. We really felt at home, surrounded by family treasures and beautiful furnishings.

The afternoon sun filled the loggia, the perfect venue to partake of aperitivo.

30.view from loggia

Come for a walk around the garden.

31.loggia steps

There was so much to explore, a cave with spectacular phosphorescent lichen, I admired from the outside.

44.cave

The shed was a work in progress, a fabulous project for the future perhaps,

45.shed

to complement the finishing touches on the exterior of the house.

46.exterior side

We didn’t get the opportunity to dine under the vines, perhaps next time?

55.vines

Let me introduce you to Molly, a delightful bundle of energy who was a very welcome addition to the package.

Thank you Jacque, John, Alex & Molly for the very special memories, we hope to meet again…..Salute!

59.wine time

http://montepozzo.it/

the humble bumble

One of the things we noticed on our earlier visits to Tasmania was the presence of the bumblebee, something we had only seen in Britain. I was distracted from my gardening recently by the frenzied activity around the Grevillea.

1.Grevillea

I sat with my camera, trying to capture these gorgeous little creatures at work. Bombus terrestris have round, furry bodies with a yellow band across the thorax and abdomen and a buff coloured tail end.

2.bumble bee3.bumble bee

They were first found in Tasmania in 1992, presumably introduced from New Zealand. Like their honey bee relatives, the bumbles feed on nectar. They lap up the liquid with their long, hairy tongues, sometimes making a hole in the base of the flower to access the nectar.

4.bumble bee5.bumble bee

Our cooler climate doesn’t bother these bees, they can absorb heat from even weak sunshine and are well insulated under their thick coats.

6.bumble bee

Bumblebees are very social insects and, apparently, very smart. There have been many studies on the behaviour of bumbles, I like the idea that they can play football

https://www.nature.com/news/bees-learn-football-from-their-buddies-1.21540

7.bumble bee

Unfortunately, in Australia the bumblebees are considered feral, with some concern that, being such efficient pollinators, they will increase the spread of environmental weeds. However, their decline in Europe, North America and Asia is causing concern as they are important agricultural pollinators. Tomato growers in Tasmanian have fought for years to change the laws to allow them to use bumblebees as pollinators but their applications have been rejected on environmental grounds.

8.bumble bee

The Conservatory

Over the years of living here in Tasmania, we have made many trips to Launceston. About halfway along the Bass Highway, at a place called Parramatta Creek, there is a fascinating building that has always intrigued us. The conservatory was built 40 years ago by a Devonport man who designed it to house his grand piano.

1.Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory

The mother-daughter team who run the café and providore approached the owner of the building and he eventually agreed to sell. In March 2015, The Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory opened. The interior is reminiscent of a bygone era,

2.interior Conservatory

the furnishings are comfortable and inviting.

The beautiful grand piano has pride of place.

The shelves are stocked with 100% Tasmanian goods from the best growers and producers across the state.

I took a stroll around the gardens before lunch, the late spring rewarded with some magnificent blooms.

27.front garden

Returning through the rear entrance,

36.rear view

lunch was served. The menu changes daily to make the most of fresh, local produce. Two of us chose Okonomiyaki; Japanese savoury pancake served with Scottsdale twice cooked sticky pork belly, crushed toasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, bean shoots, fresh chilli and Thirlstane Gardens coriander.

It was a tough decision between the pork and the Braefield pulled lamb burger on a Pigeon Whole bakery brioche bun with smoky baba ganoush, baby spinach, crispy Brandsema balsamic eggplant and house pickled red onion served with sweet potato chips and tzatziki.

39.Pulled lamb burger

There are also vegetarian options, including a selection of delicious dips.

40.dips

Of course, the local wines are superb. I don’t think we can travel to Launceston without stopping in for, at least, a coffee and cake.

41.not our car42.Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory

https://www.facebook.com/Tasmanianfoodandwineconservatory/

Shakespeare’s Stratford

Stratford-upon-Avon is a wonderful town and no visit would be complete without a slathering of Shakespeare. It seemed logical to begin at the birthplace of the brilliant bard. William was the third of eight children born to John and Mary who owned the largest house on Henley Street.

1.Shakespeare's Birthplace

The early 16th century building also housed John Shakespeare’s successful glove making business.

2.Shakespeare's Birthplace

William lived here with his wife, Anne Hathaway, for the first five years of their marriage. After John’s death in 1601 William inherited the house and leased part of the property as The Maidenhead Inn. Photos of the interior weren’t allowed but they were as beautifully restored and maintained as the gardens and exterior.

3.Shakespeare's Birthplace4.Shakespeare's Birthplace5.Shakespeare's Birthplace

Of course, we exited via the gift shop.

6.The Shakespeare Gift Shop

We wandered along Henley Street, the shop windows already shining with Christmas decorations.

7.Henley St

The magnificent Tudor buildings have stood the test of time, despite many of them being destroyed by fire four times between 1594 and 1641.

We turned into High Street,

10.High St

the intricate timber frontage of The Garrick Inn was stunning. Dating back to the 14th century, the oldest pub in town is reputedly haunted.

11.The Garrick Inn, High St

Next door, Harvard House had an equally impressive façade, adorned with various carvings.

Crossing over Sheep Street, High Street changed its name to Chapel Street. The 4-star Mercure Shakespeare Hotel dates back to 1637 and each room is individually decorated and named after a Shakespearian play or character.

14.Mercure Stratford upon Avon Shakespeare Hotel, Chapel St

Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, married Thomas Nash in 1626 and they lived in a lovely Tudor house in Chapel Street

15.Nash's House

with a gorgeous traditional knot garden filled with herbs and aromatic plants.

16.Nash's House knot garden17.Nash's House garden

There were several sculptures depicting characters from the Bard’s plays and poetry.

18.statue Nash's House

I don’t know if Thomas enjoyed an ale or two but his house was conveniently close to The Falcon Hotel, built in the early 16th century with a second floor added in 1645.

19.The Falcon Hotel, Chapel St

Further on, the road name changed to Church Street where we encountered a row of almshouses. Built in 1417-18 by the Guild of the Holy Cross for old or needy members of the guild, they were transferred to Stratford upon Avon Corporation in 1553 and enlarged to provide 24 homes for the elderly. Following refurbishment in the mid 1980s, there are now 11 self-contained units .

20.The Almshouses, Church St

It wasn’t far before the Shakespeare story continued. William and Anne’s eldest daughter, Susanna (Elizabeth’s mother), married a local physician, John Hall in 1607. The rather impressive Hall’s Croft, built in 1613, was their home.

21.Hall's Croft22.Hall's Croft

We were running out of time and so, only briefly stopped at Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Anne was born here in 1556 and lived with her family until she married Shakespeare.

23.Anne Hathaway's cottage24.Anne Hathaway's cottage

It would have been nice to linger in the beautiful gardens but we were on a mission to visit Mary Arden’s Farm…. but that’s another post.