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