Revelation: water is a far more powerful presence in a garden than I’ve ever recognised before.
You don’t need to go to an actual water garden like Villa d’Este to come to this understanding, but it helps. It sort of helps.
Villa D’Este in Tivoli, Italy, is all about water. Water is made to do so many crazy things there, and all under the power of gravity, which was the only power they had at their disposal to manipulate water in the 16th Century.
At the lowest level, where gravity can have it’s greatest effect, is this totally berserk creation – the Neptune Fountain
It’s truly overwhelming. To get an idea of scale, check the people on the terrace near the top. You’re totally enveloped in the thundering sound, and literally breathing it in through the atomised particles of water that hang around it like an invisible cloud. You really long to go stand in it, or under it, for a while. Its as if it calls you in.
Half way down the slope is the very, and justifiably, famous path of the Hundred Fountains. You’d think that this couldn’t be anything but an anticlimax after the lower spectacle, as water pretty much just dribbles from three staggered rills, but it’s not.
The pattern is repeated over and over – you could say that the pattern is seriously overstated – but the repetitive, rhythmic power of it is incredible. And the water is so clear, so cold and so crystalline that you can’t help plunging your arm into the lower trough as deep as you can. Then you put the camera down, and plunge both arms in, right up to the rolled up sleeves.
And then….and then….you visit Ninfa the next day. I’m not going to write anything about the garden here, as such. At 5am, as it is, I can’t do it justice. But here, water reaches some sort of mystical high.
You’ve never seen water so clear – like pure liquid oxygen – sliding along through water plants of vivid green. The fact that the weather was on the hot side was definitely a contributing factor, but I so wanted to just drop into the water and slither along, eel-like, wriggling through those reeds.
I’ve never been so aware before, as I looked at this sparkling substance, that 60% of me is it. At that moment I would have been very happy to make it 100%.