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Puglia

Unsung Treasures of Puglia: Three Gardens

For centuries Italy has been called the Garden of Europe by virtue of the beauty of its landscapes dotted with residences, castles and gardens, the result of a harmonious interaction between man and nature. Gardens, emblems of this heritage, are the expression of an inseparable relationship between architecture and environment and a distinctive feature of our civilization. Puglia, which is almost always associated with its whitewashed towns, cone-shaped Trulli and turquoise seas, is also home to some of the most spectacular and lesser known gardens of the peninsula. 

 

The traditional Apulian gardens, filled with fig, mulberry and quince trees, were revolutionized during the middle of the nineteenth century, as the basin of the Mediterranean was overwhelmed by the fashion of botanical “exoticisms”; it was then that parks and gardens started developing into a botanical multisensory experience with a diversity of shapes and colors that is today celebrated and often located in contexts of great architectural landscape.

 

Lama degli Ulivi

In an evocative natural scenery that develops inside a blade, called “lama” in Italian (a characteristic erosive furrow dug over time by the passage of water and carved into the Murgian step) is a botanical eden called Lama degli Ulivi, conceived as a nursery for Mediterranean plants, which sit among rocky ravines, ancient dry stone walls and rock settlements. Over the surface of three hectares, characterized by different exposures and microclimates and by a real forest of millenary olive trees, the garden houses over 2,000 species (both autochthonous  and exotic) which have been planted over a twenty year period. An accurate botanical selection accompanies visitors from the more rigid and sculptural forms of Agaves, Palms and Yuccas, to the soft ones of Cysts, Malvaceae and Sages, with an attention that is also manifested in the skillful combination of colors, which ranges from soft oranges to pinks, from yellows to blues.  The different varieties of plants of the world coexist in perfect harmony, intertwining and blooming together. The blade is full of caves and also preserves two rock churches with frescoes, dated between 1000 and 1200 AD, the work of monks who fled the Ottoman Empire during the long Christian persecution, settled in these areas and transformed pre-existing caves into places of worship. The Lama almost reaches the wind-swept salty coast, and there, white caper flowers, burst like miniature fireworks.

 

Masseria Amastuola

The second garden is the work of the well-known Spanish landscape architect called Fernando Caruncho, who redesigned the whole scenery of the Tenuta di Amastuola. He recovered 1500 secular olive trees, saving them from abandonment or worse – firewood – and transplanted them, repositioning the trees along the entrance to the Masseria as well as in between the vines. Many of them now flank the long entrance avenue and placed side by side, create a sort of silver-colored wall which gradually composes and breaks down together with the wind. But the entrance is just the tip of the iceberg: Masseria Amastuola hosts what is probably the most beautiful vineyard-garden in the world, as Caruncho designed and planned 100 hectares of wave-like rows of vines 3km in length, conceived as a garden in which to get lost, stopping from time to time in the oases he created inside, 24 islands organically positioned over the entire surface of the vineyard and along the historic roads of the Masseria, circumscribed by cypresses and the centuries-old transplanted olive trees. The oldest are about 800 years old and are all sculptures of living wood. The backs of the vines draw harmonic and parallel waves that follow one another and that have been defined, by the author, as “waves of time that have crossed this place since ancient eras”. Going up towards the farm, the complete perspective opens up gradually on the vineyards, which seem to move as you advance, forming chiaroscuro effects with the olive trees. All around, the turf changes color according to the seasons and intertwines with the angularity of the typical dry-stone walls. Drawing the landscape for Caruncho is equivalent to seeking its deep order. If space and time are two important parameters of his work, geometry is the means to express them, through which to relate architecture, landscape and sky one to the other.

 

La Cutura

La Cutura, an ancient country estate built in the classic rural style of the late nineteenth century, is today a renowned botanical garden that extends for 35 hectares and houses one of the richest collections of rare succulent and tropical plants. A paradise born of stone (Cutura, from the word “cute” in italian meaning skin but in the local dialect synonym of stone), the garden is a unicum in Italy, a place of knowledge and recreation rich in flora where pleasure and nature blend in harmony in a triumph of scents and colors. Following a botanical path along the avenues of roses, gardens of aromatic plants and a flowerbed of Mediterranean and medicinal plants, between the pond of papyrus which collects rainwater and is home to the water lilies, bamboo, water hyacinths, yellow-flowered irises, past the rock garden, through the citrus grove and the holm oak wood (one of the few remaining in the Salento area), one reaches the imposing 1000 square meter greenhouse where over 2000 specimens of succulent plants of various origins, precious for rarity, type and size, are collected and catalogued. The greenhouse, spearhead of the garden, was born from Salvatore Cezzi’s passion for succulents, who in the course of his youthful travels had the opportunity to obtain a large number of specimens of various origins. The estate also boats an Italian style garden, with geometrically arranged flower beds decorated with topiary boxwood, the “garden of the simple”, with medicinal plants for therapeutic use, the rose garden, with its collection of ancient and modern roses and the intoxicating scent of damask roses and, last but not least, the secret garden, built inside an evocative stone quarry, which houses tree ferns and plants of subtropical origin.

Lama degli Ulivi

Masseria Amastuola

La Cutura