Bomarzo Garden

I had read about the Parco di Mostri in Bomarzo before going to Italy and it sounded fascinating. The Park of Monsters is the creation of Prince Pier Francesco Orsini who, although living in a rather fabulous palace, had his share of bad luck. In 1552, he returned from a war in which his friend had been killed and he was taken prisoner and his thoughts turned to planning a special garden. Five years later, his beloved wife, Giulia Farnese Orsini, died. As an outlet for his sorrow, he pushed ahead with the project and for more than thirty years dedicated his life to finishing the garden. In 1579, he noted in his diary: “I can find relief only in my beloved forest, and I bless the money I have spent and still spend on this magic area”.

Six years later, Orsini died at the age of 62. Sadly, after his death, the garden was abandoned and swallowed up by the forest until 1951 when an estate agent, Giancarlo Bettini, stumbled across the hidden monsters when looking for land to buy. He bought the whole lot and proceeded to restore the garden for its intended purpose. A short stroll from the ticket office

we come to the entrance.

A pair of sphinxes await and each plinth bears an inscription; “He who does not go there with eyes wide open and lips sealed will not be able to admire the most wonderful marvels” and “You who enter here put your mind to it part by part and tell me if some many marvels were made by deceit or by design”.

A series of heads depicting the Gods are scattered around, peering from shrubbery when you least expect it.

Proteus Glaucus represents the Greek God of the Sea, Proteus, and Glaucus, the fisherman who became a Sea God after eating a magical herb. The globe and castle atop the head are symbols of the Orsini family.

The ruined mausoleum is intentionally half destroyed and fallen over and we passed an intriguing gate in a stone wall.

Hercules and Cacus are embroiled in a very one-sided fight.

Nearby, a stream soothes the tension as it tumbles over the rocks

while the winged stallion, Pegasus, oversees the flow.

There is a turtle with a fairy on its back, both looking in the same direction as Pegasus.

Not too far away, a whale emerges from the water.

Dedicated to all nymphs, the aptly named nymphaneum seems to be guarded by a lion with a ball under his paw.

In front of it, there is a dormant fountain with dolphins each end

with Jupiter and Venus standing by.

Seven obelisks topped with sculpted heads form the audience at the theatre,

not far from the leaning house. One of the first constructions of the garden, it is thought to have been built at the request of Giulia.

We pass statues of Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture and Neptune, Roman god of the sea.

An elephant carrying a castle appears, a symbol of strength and restraint, with a wounded or dead Roman soldier held in its trunk. 

Another fight is raging around the corner, this time a dog, a lion and a wolf are battling with a dragon. Three against one just doesn’t seem fair.

The Mouth of Hell, the Orc, the Ogre, whichever name you choose, it is nonetheless disturbing. The inscription on the top lip translates as, “all thoughts fly”. There is a picnic bench inside, not a very inviting setting in which to dine.

The Etruscan bench has a very well preserved inscription, “You who have travelled the world wishing to see great and stupendous marvels, come here, where there are horrendous faces, elephants, lions, bears, orcs and dragons”. Who can argue with that?

Continuing up some steps,

we come to the Hippodrome Garden, the perimeter is decorated with large pinecones and acorns.

At the near end, there is a bench surmounted by a female figure with a bifurcated fish tail

while the three-headed dog, Cerberus stands guard nearby.

At the far end are two bears, one carrying the family coat of arms and the other, a Roman rose.

On the other side sits Echidna, the half-woman half-snake (mother of Cerberus) and Fury, the female winged creature with a dragon’s tail and claws with a pair of lions separating the two.

The Rotonda is a circular fountain at the top of a staircase leading to the Tempietto.

The ‘small temple’ was the last construction of the garden as a memorial to Giulia, a symbol of her constancy, having remained faithful to her husband when he was absent at war. The ceiling is decorated with lilies, symbol of the Farnese family and roses, symbol of the Orsini family. Giancarlo and Tina Bettini, who restored the garden in 1952, are buried in the Tempietto.

Stunned, shocked and amazed, with Palazzo Orsini in our sights, we returned to the car to seek lunch in Bomarzo.

Cradle comforts

Last time we spent the weekend at Cradle Mountain Lodge we promised ourselves we would make it a regular treat, perhaps once a year. Nine years on, we returned last month for a mid-week stay, the impetus being Michael’s birthday. After a leisurely scenic drive of just over an hour, we felt compelled to inspect the new, controversial, Visitor Centre. With all the negative publicity, I wasn’t expecting to find, in my opinion, a rather impressive construction.

Once the hundreds of plantings have grown, I think it will blend well with the environment.

The lodge looks stunning with a new face lift

and the reconfigured reception area has lost none of its welcoming charm.

We checked in to our Pencil Pine cabin, surrounded by wildlife

with a distant view of Cradle Mountain,

and returned to the tavern for lunch.

The guest lounge is cosy and comfortable

and there were two chairs by the fire that definitely had our names on them.

Our cabin was an easy stroll from the lodge, passing many contented furry residents along the way, obviously used to the comings and goings of the human variety.

The next day brought rain, a soothing constant downpour with not a breath of wind.

After a hearty breakfast, we retired to the guest lounge for a couple of hours of enforced relaxation before making our way to Waldheim Spa for a spot of pampering. Michael savoured a sixty minute Aromasoul massage by the lovely Eka, while Kayoko treated me to a Tension Tonic Ritual – a delicious hour of body massage, foot treatment and scalp therapy.

Anticipating a sumptuous dinner at the Highland Restaurant, we returned to the cabin for a cheese platter and quiet afternoon, hoping the forecast snow would materialise. Despite -4°C overnight, snow didn’t eventuate but a heavy frost and ice greeted us the next morning.

We couldn’t resist a final indulgence with a cooked breakfast followed by an easy walk in the crisp, clear air before departing for home, vowing to do this more often.

Casita Miro

Set on a hill with spectacular views overlooking Onetangi Beach, Spanish influenced Casita Miro was the second winery of our Waiheke Island tour.

A magnificent mosaic wall follows the entrance driveway, an intricate work of art created by the Bond family who have been growing grapes and making wine here for twenty years.

We were greeted by a lovely lady with the unusual name Meander, a legacy of Dutch hippy parents apparently, who led us through the award winning tapas restaurant.

The steps to the Bond Bar,

our venue to indulge in tastings of the Miro Vineyard wines, were edged with more astounding mosaics.

The view from the top, across vineyards to the ocean, was breathtaking.

In a sublime atmosphere, Meander navigated us through four wines, each one matched with a tasty morsel.

The Madame Rouge Walnuts were delicious. Roasted in Madame Rouge aperitif, a fortified blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grape juice, along with butter, cayenne, salt and brown sugar. With a glass of wine in hand we farewelled the Bond Bar and retreated to the restaurant to purchase a bucketful for future consumption.

repast reprised

Though my memory is not as reliable as it once was, I had a vivid recollection of lunch at a tiny osteria somewhere near Villa Reale on our first trip to Italy. At that time, Michael was busy making a guitar so I was hoping to take him there before visiting the villa this time. As we neared the villa, things started to look familiar and there it was. La Bottega sulla Fraga was just as I remembered,

tucked away in a lovely, peaceful setting on Via Fraga

with the Fraga stream flowing gently on the other side of the road.

This former ancient butchery isn’t spacious and it seemed the place to be on a warm Sunday afternoon.

A table for two in the courtyard seemed to be waiting just for us along with a friendly welcome.

Our meals were delicious

and of course, it would have been rude not to have dessert.

spring has sprung

One of the best things about living in Tasmania is the four distinct seasons. As winter comes to an end, the stark beauty of the garden changes with the appearance of the first green shoots of spring bulbs.

The daffodils were culled last year and hundreds of bulbs were given to a friend to enjoy the splendour in her own garden. There were plenty left to put on an impressive show.

The delicate hyacinths briefly add colour to the rosemary hedge.

Iris Florentina never disappoints, they seem to appear in a new spot each year but I’m not sure I can bring myself to cull them.

Snowbells and Spanish bluebells commingle with the daffodils and irises

while the elegant arum lilies would monopolise the entire garden if not kept in check.

Blossoms are appearing on the fruit trees, hopefully the Roaring Forties won’t come too soon and blow them away, it would be nice to have some fruit this year.

The grevilleas are ready for the birds and bees

and the clivia are managing to withstand the wildlife.

New leaves on the Pieris are a wonderful shade of red, soon to turn green and await the pendulous white “Lily-of-the-Valley” flowers.

The Waratah is in full bloom

with the magnolia

and rhododendrons not far behind.

As the weather warms up, the garden will become an ever changing palette until winter slumber and the cycle will begin again.