Vergemoli

When we first visited Italy in 2014, we were invited to lunch at the home of friends, Deb and Jim, in the mountains of the Garfagnana. We recalled the drive as being somewhat hair-raising but, when invited again this time, we couldn’t resist. With much trepidation, we ventured forth, stopping in Gallicano for a heart starter coffee and pastry.

The road out of the village certainly fits the description of ‘narrow’,

6.Gallicano

as we passed beneath the ancient aqueduct.

7.aqueduct, Gallicano

It almost made the road to Vergemoli look like a highway,

8.road to Vergemoli

excepting when there is more rock than road.

9.road to Vergemoli

Clouds gathered as we climbed into the mountains,

10.road to Vergemoli

looking back the way we had come, the view was spectacular.

11.road to Vergemoli

The mountains loomed closer and before long we had reached Vergemoli.

12.road to Vergemoli

Turning left at the small piazza, we parked at the top end of the village by the 17th century church of Sant’Antonio.

13.Vergemoli14.Vergemoli15.Chiesa Sant'Antonio

We had allowed time for a stroll through the village before lunch, our first discovery was an outdoor theatre, a lovely spot to watch a play in the summer months.

16.outdoor theatre

We could see for miles across the valley,

17.Vergemoli view

a stone bench perfectly placed to catch your breath after walking up the hill.

18.Vergemoli

The houses were neat and colourful,

some seemed to end suddenly at the edge of the cliff.

23.Vergemoli

There was no shortage of intriguing doorways.

The parish church of San Quirico and Santa Giulitta, in the middle of town, dates back to the 10th century.

27.Chiesa dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta

I’m not sure what this stone monument represents but it is dated 1637AD

28.Vergemoli

and another close by is unidentified.

29.Vergemoli

Alleyways veered in all directions filled with dwellings built at impossible angles.

Some had room for a garden shed

37.garden shed

or a beautifully maintained shrine.

38.Vergemoli

We didn’t see many locals but the four-legged inhabitants were very friendly.

We could see our destination, Casa Debbio, waiting comfortably on the hillside as we returned to the car and drove the track to the house.

44.Casa Debbio45.Casa Debbio

Although the weather was too inclement to dine on the terrace,

46.terrace, Casa Debbio

the vista across to Vergemoli was stunning.

47.Vergemoli

The drizzle didn’t deter us from exploring the garden with its quirky residents

and some of the most fabulous flowers I have ever seen.

From the terrace at the back of the house, there is a lovely view of the wisteria on the pergola

57.pergola

and of new plantings as the garden blends with the wilderness.

58.garden

A few more flowers and treasures

59.garden

and we returned to the house

66.Casa Debbio

with that amazing view

67.Vergemoli

to enjoy a slice of Angela’s hat.

68.Angela

We farewelled Deb and Jim and made our way back down the mountain. If only Australia wasn’t so far away.

69.geraniums

Casa Debbio is the perfect place to escape and unwind for a few days or weeks and is available for holiday rental, take a look.

Blarney Castle

After spending the night in Cork, we fortified ourselves with a substantial breakfast and headed for Blarney Castle.

1.Blarney Castle

The walk from the car park, crossing the River Martin, warmed us up a bit.

2.Blarney Castle

The castle presented a stunning backdrop for the burnished autumn foliage.

3.Blarney Castle

Across a bridge over the river,

4.Blarney Castle5.Blarney Castle

we stood looking up at the north wall. The original Blarney Castle, a timber hunting lodge, was built in the 10th century and replaced by a stone construction in 1210. The existing castle, built on the edge of a cliff, was completed in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. The castle changed hands over the centuries, to Oliver Cromwell in 1646, back to the McCarthys fifteen years later before they lost it again in 1690, then sold to the Governor of Cork in 1703.

6.North Wall,Blarney Castle

The rather elaborate windows, halfway up the wall on the right, are not the romantic bedchamber embellishments one might imagine. They are, in fact, garderobes, the medieval answer to the ensuite.

7.garderobes

We followed the path past the guard tower

8.guard tower

and well-worn steps that led to the dungeons

9.dungeon stairs

before starting our climb to the top of the castle. Our ascent was frequently interrupted to take in the spectacular panorama through the windows.

10.Blarney Castle

13.view

There wasn’t a lot of breathing space in the passages, I can’t imagine running along them dressed in a suit of armour.

14.Blarney Castle

The narrow, spiral stone steps finally ended at the top of the castle. Looking down, we could see where the three floors would have been in the main living area.

15.standing over the main room

The pigeons are the only ones on lookout these days.

17.pigeon lookout

At the top of the tower is the infamous Blarney Stone, believed to give anyone that kisses it the gift of eloquence. At one time, anyone wishing to kiss the stone would be at risk of plunging from a great height but there are now railings to hold on to and some underneath to break the fall.

18.Blarney Stone

Even so, we didn’t join the queue to bend over backwards from the parapet, there is only so much blarney one needs in life. Besides, the Blarney Stone has been named the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

19.Blarney Stone

The magnificent view from the battlements was well worth the climb.

20.view from the battlements

Once back on terra firma, we discovered Rock Close, a garden landscaped in the 18th century around existing stone monuments.

21.Rock Close22.Rock Close

It’s easy to believe the tales of Druids and Fairies in this mystical place, the senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s Cave.

23.Druid's Cave Rock Close

We would have liked to spend more time in this enchanted garden but time was ticking on.

Legend has it that there is a witch who will grant wishes to those who can walk up and back down the wishing steps with eyes closed (I didn’t get a photo of the steps, nor did I try this). In exchange for this gift, she is provided with firewood for her kitchen. I didn’t get a photo of the kitchen either, but we did see the witch stone. Some believe it was the Blarney Witch who told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone but it remains a mystery how she became entrapped in the rock.

27.The Witch Stone

City Park

A stroll through Launceston City Park on a perfect spring morning is a lovely way to start the day.

1.City Park2.City Park

Established in the 1820s by the Launceston Horticultural Society, the park was handed over to Launceston City Council in 1863. Entering the western gate, the 19th century former caretakers cottage, now the studios of City Park Radio, has one of Australia’s oldest wisteria vines, planted in 1837.

3.City Park Radio

The John Hart Conservatory was erected from the John Hart bequest in 1932 and refurbished in 2010. John Hart was a mariner, merchant and parliamentarian who spent most of his career in the 1800s in South Australia. He died in 1873 at his home, Glanville Hall, at Port Adelaide. He must have felt some connection to Launceston having arrived there on the ship, Isabella, from London in 1837, even though his stay was brief. The same plans were used to build a conservatory at Parramatta Creek in the 1970s. You can see that post here, The Conservatory

4.John Hart Conservatory5.John Hart Conservatory

The garden beds at the front of the building were blooming with a stunning display of violas.

Myriad plantings edged the spacious interior, the tranquil ambience invited us to linger.

8.John Hart Conservatory

9.John Hart Conservatory

Majestic orchids thrived amidst lush greenery.

Outside, colourful poppies bounced in the breeze and the bees were already busy collecting their nectar.

There are many magnificent mature trees in the park. Apparently, the English Elms are all clones of a single tree brought to England by the Romans. Their descendants arrived in Australia on ships hundreds of years later to be planted in parks like this one. The tallest trees, the Sequoias, presumably arrived in the same manner.

The band rotunda was built in 1908 and is dedicated to Chester Edwards who joined the Launceston City Band at the age of 10 and conducted from 1906 until 1958. A plaque reads, “Erected in appreciation of the sterling services rendered by Chester Edwards in the musical activities of the City of Launceston.”

29.rotunda

The ornate drinking fountain was intended to be a gift from the children of Launceston to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.

30.Jubilee Fountain

Things didn’t go quite according to plan. The fountain was ordered from Saracen Foundry in Scotland, however, the funds were not raised in time and the installation was postponed until the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The moulded shields above the arches depict both dates as well as a bust of Queen Victoria.

The fountain was initially positioned outside the main gates and was moved inside the park in 1908. The design incorporates symbolism popular in Victorian times; griffins are guardians of priceless possessions, lions symbolise guardianship, cranes for vigilance and eagles represent immortality.

34.Jubilee Fountain

A bronze statue of Ronald Campbell Gunn stands proudly in the shade. Arriving in Tasmania in 1830, he became Superintendent of Convicts and Police Magistrate. His career path soon led to politics but he is best known as a botanist. He collected, recorded and sent many specimens back to England (as well as a living Tasmanian tiger in 1858).

35.Ronald Campbell Gunn

The ‘Senses Garden’ was created in 1978, raised beds are filled with plants selected for their aroma or texture

36.Senses Garden

and the terracotta dolphin fountain has centre stage. The fountain was initially erected in a different area of the park in 1861 and is the second oldest fountain in Australia (the oldest being the Val d’Osne Fountain in Princes Square, less than a kilometre away).

37.Senses Garden

Reluctantly, we tore ourselves away from the garden, there were more adventures awaiting.

40.Senses Garden

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/