I’m still not ready to leave Italy, and following a point made in my earlier Italian garden post, I want to indulge in some impressions of Villa Gamberaia, just out of Florence. There’s been so, so much written about it over the last couple of hundred years, that there surely can’t be anything original left to say.
But I’m pondering that whole point about skirting around the heart of a garden, and this is the perfect garden to illustrate the idea. The centre-piece of this garden is a box parterre. It’s seen at its best from the upstairs loggia, which unfortunately visitors can’t get to. When you’re down in it, you know that you’re really at the centre of things – that it doesn’t get more intense than this – but you sort of wonder at the point of it all. I feel the same in nearly all of those crazy Renaissance and Baroque parterres. I stand there wondering ‘what now?’. This is so marked here at Villa Gamberaia that I forgot to take a really obvious photo, standing in the centre of the parterre. The above is the nearest I have. But once you’re out of the centre, and just catch glimpses back into it at odd angles, you simply can’t stop looking at it, or taking photos of every new view.
I’m just loving exploring this idea – of deliberately designing in such a way that you only get snatched glimpses of the real centre of a garden. I guess it’s the same experience, if far more literal, in a garden maze. The destination is nearly always an anticlimax, and the real point was the journey there.
And while I refuse to see this as a metaphor for life in its entirety, it’s certainly been my experience of a heap of sub-destinations along the way.
This is only one part of a complex garden that feels spacious, generous and intimate all at once. It’s a rare achievement. The only garden I can think of that does it better is the Prieure Notre Dame d’Orsan, in Berry, France. Can’t wait to gush about that one.