Review of Last Lecture
October saw members of The Arts Society Lymingon looking at blue skies, sunshine, lakes, mountains and green gardens. We were wafted off to italy's Lakes Maggiore and Como to admire the elegant gardens overlooking this magnificent scenery. Steven Desmond entranced us all - we nearly upped sticks and caught the next train or plane to go ourselves.
Despite the sunshine in all the pictures we admired on the screen, the rainfall in mountainous northern Italy is considerable, Lake Maggiore has 90 inches per year, more even than Windermere. When you add melt water from the mountains it is no surprise that there are so many lakes, and such green lower slopes and gardens.
Each of the villas had a backdrop and a view of snow-capped mountains, sweet chestnut tree covered slopes, and always a splendid view of the lake. Terraces ensured that the residents could walk between beautiful flowers and admire the spectacular view in front of them.
Lake Como has no flat bits beside it, but where it has been possible people have built, and one of the buildings is Villa Carlotta. Built in the late seventeenth century if was given as a wedding present to Princess Carlotta of Prussia on her marriage to Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen, hence the name. Georg enriched the already lovely gardens importing the newly discovered Rhododendrons and Azaleas which still flower magnificently.
Villa Carlotta, by Carl Hummel, 1855.
We moved on to the Villa Melzi. Built between 1808 and 1810 by Francesco Melzi d'Eril, Vice-President of the First Italian Republic under Napoleon. Upon Napoleon deciding he would rather be King of Italy than have a republic Melzi concentrated on his house and garden. Its neo-classical style is enhanced by the Roman statues and Egyptian sculptures, exotic trees such as Japanese maples and cedars - as well as Rhododendrons and Azaleas. The site slopes gently up the mountain and blends into the trees behind it, while lakeside has the inevitable terraces and landing stage.
Then came the Villa Balbianello, sited on a humped headland, approachable only by walking or from the lake. Along the lakeside is a loggia with an attractive balustrade giving a splendid view.
Our next indulgence was the Villa d'Este, a renaissance residence with 25 acres of parkland. Although there have been changes since its inception the Villa still commands its headland
Stones dragged from the bottom of the lake were used to build many of its features, giving the walls an unusual colour
Between Lakes Como and Maggiore lies the Villa de Como Mazone. The same family have owned it since the twelfth century; one of its more intriguing features is a part of the garden half natural and green, and half stonework imitating nature. The play of the light on the two types of arrangement was fascinating.
We arrived at Lake Maggiore and Isola Bella. The house was begun in 1630 and finished in 1959. Terraces form a ziggurat, with a long climb to the 1797 platform on top giving a magnificent view of everything around. There is also an amphitheatre echoing Parnassus with statues of the Muses, and Apollo.
Our final visit to Villa San Remigo was a sad ending; the villa is closed due to the Tornado in 2012. This centre for artists looked lovely, but we could not include it in our imaginary future tours, as we thanked Steven Desmond for a splendid evening.