Under the Volcano

Sometimes you have to be grateful for modern life. One day it is cold, wet, winter-bound Scotland. The next, it is warm Sicilian spring, with the lemons and oranges dropping from the trees, the blue sea, and the white snows of mount Etna.And I’ll let you into a secret. Hacked into the precipice above Taormina, away from the tourist shops and the crowds, there’s a garden. Created in 1907 by an English artist, preserved from rapacious developers by his niece, and now purchased and in the process of restoration by a Sicilian family who have known and loved the house for almost as long, it’s pure balm to the soul.The house is redolent of the arts and crafts movement. Bertrand Russell stayed. Frank Brangwyn painted frescoes in the dining room. Henry Faulkner left paintings. It remains as it was, full of the memories of those far-off days.There are ancient Greek faces in the fountains and the pools.And…(although the garden has some way to go before it is back in its full glory)…..flowers scattered all over the steep terracesAbove all, the air is full of the scent of jasminum polyanthum – which grows reluctantly in my greenhouse and seldom flowers. Here, it drapes balustrades and arches.Elsewhere, I found these irises flowering between the half-buried rows of seating in the Greek theatre:And these (which I would love to possess) growing wild close to the old Roman villa del Casale with its wonderful mosaics. I imagine they must be iris reticulata or a close relative.All too soon, Sicily will be burnt brown beneath the summer sun, while Scotland will stay green and mild.  But how wonderful to see the southern Spring while it lasts.

P.S. Here’s the link to the Casa Cuseni. The family take guests. Rates are more than reasonable. It’s not easy to find. A sprinkling of Italian will ease your passage

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10 thoughts on “Under the Volcano

  1. I visited Sicily for the first time a couple of years ago and like you (it sounds like) was utterly smitten. We went in September and as you say it was all a little er, crispy burnt but so beautiful nonetheless. If you ever go back, may I recommend the Egadi Islands and Marettimo in particular – a couple of hours by boat from Trapani. It is galling when you see something rampaging weed-like in the Med, when your own specimen back in the UK is tiny and reluctant and sulking in a pot. I need to go back – if only to see Etna and the SE. Glad you got yourself a little sun, Mr K. It must have been the first in a while. Dave

  2. It looks beautiful. I love the distinctive warm light you get in the Med. I’ve never been to Sicily. It looks like spring would be a good time to go. Both myself and my husband aren’t great with too much heat.

  3. Beautiful views and a beautiful garden that you found. Gardens that are being restored have a special feeling about them, linking with the past. Glad you found some sun at last!

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