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Garden of Eden in Italy
Ischia's La Mortella offers visitors the chance to see the world's most beautiful plants on one of the world's most beautiful islands
In 2004, I was supposed to have my first date with my now boyfriend Antonio Gerenini - and our destination was going to be La Mortella, the lovely public gardens in Forio in Ischia. Having read all about it before traveling to Italy, I could hardly wait. But before I could get there, I had a serious accident that eventually resulted in three surgeries to my knee. I never made it to La Mortella - that is, until now. And I want to take you there, too.
La Mortella is a large garden that was once home to Sir William Walton, a composer who was lured to Ischia by its lush hills and clear blue ocean. He and his wife Lady Susanna essentially opened their home to the public. Today, native Ischitani and tourists alike spend hours wandering through the numerous paths of plant varieties from different climates all over the world.
When I arrived at the gate of La Mortella last month it was a moment of truth. Entering the Garden of Eden was my reward for enduring three knee surgeries, bed rest, and months and months of physical therapy. My cousins Gigino and Flavia brought me there on the weekend of my 28th birthday. (Antonio had to work, so he still has never been there, despite living in Ischia - che peccato!)
As you start to walk through the winding paths, you notice a sea of colorful pebbles and greenery as far as the eye can see. After a few steps, you hear the cascading water of various fountains and the “ribbbbittttt” of the frogs in the numerous lily pad ponds. Among the lily pads, you'll see delicate, large lotus flowers. Nearby, stalks of thick bamboo, a Japanese-style bird house and a pagoda make you feel as though you've entered Asia. Soon, however, you are reminded of your surroundings. The view of Ischia from the top of the La Mortella Gardens will take your breath away.
Situated around the gardens are various green houses that offer climate control to the less durable varieties of plant and flowers. Visitors feel like they've entered a tropical paradise when they walk into the humid zones housing hot pink and white orchids.
Exceptional plant life is not the only draw of La Mortella. A bird sanctuary with tiny little parakeets, large parrots, and other exotic species put visitors in touch with nature on another level. The birds zoom in and out of the two rooms dedicated to them, and you are close enough to reach out and touch them.
Head to the tea house when you're looking for a break. There, you can order espresso, tea, soda or other soft drinks and dessert. I had the unique lemon caprese cake and Gigino opted for a sweet apple tort. Both were delicious and the perfect way to top off a day in the gardens. Many other guests also opt to attend the various classical concerts that are held weekly at La Mortella.
Even if you don't pick up a souvenir at the gardens, you will still come home with lovely memories - and, if you're smart, outstanding photos. Close up shots of the plants can be blown up for wall art. You can see some of the precious pictures I took during my day at La Mortella at my Web site.
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