The third garden on our Lazio list, Villa Lante, was our first Italian Renaissance garden. Formally styled, highly controlled, no discernible flowers. I remember Monty remarking that in some of the Renaissance gardens these box hedged patterns would originally have been home to flowers and herbs but I quite like the sparsity of colour and rigidity of design at Villa Lante. As it happens it is not Monty that has drawn us here but a recommendation from Alys Fowler on twitter where she mentioned that it was charming and quiet. Alys was right on both counts - it is small, perfectly formed and surprisingly, we have the place to ourselves.
Villa Lante is an example of the Mannerist phase of the Italian Renaissance - you can read the 'science bit' here. I don't generally read too much information in advance of visiting the gardens, I prefer to have a rough idea of their history and then my own emotional response to them. I wonder if this is a mistake. I know how much difference having an audio guide makes to the experience of visiting an art exhibition and how it can give life and purpose to paintings and artwork that I might otherwise just wander past. Do I need to understand a garden to appreciate it?
There is plenty to appreciate at Villa Lante whether you are informed or not. The intricate and precise patterns of the box hedging
statues with the requisite lichen and moss
But there was also an annoying down side to Villa Lante - when we visited, much of what is a relatively small garden in the first place, was chained off. Even the main terrace with its maze of box hedging was only possible to view from a central walkway, yet everything about it begs you to wander through the design itself and discover its hidden fountains.
What strikes me first during our visit is that the garden is designed to be viewed from the top terrace and there are going to be a heck of a lot of steps to climb. My energy is limited so hauling myself to the top had better be worth it!
When I did a day's Photography Course with Clive Nichols at RHS Wisley the one thing I remember is his advice that the lens you should use most for garden landscapes is your telephoto to bring the background into the foreground. The two photos below illustrate why - the first makes the top terrace of the garden seem a realistically long way away,
the second, taken with the telephoto lens, is the more attractive picture, but gives the impression that you could be up to the top with a leap and a skip.
I am determined that having come all this way I am not missing out on the top terrace view, I want to get the shot of the view down the terraces from the top of the long rill. Here we have it
and for no obvious reason some b****** has stuck a builders rod and tape right in the middle of it spoiling the shot! I am tempted to take it out to get a perfect photo or to photoshop it out later on but am minded to remember Anne Wareham's views about prettifying and perfecting gardens in this way, airbrushing out their faults like magazine models. (It is odd how Anne has come into my consciousness at these gardens, I feel like she is there with me EEEEK!)
This was the Bedsock's favourite bit of the garden - the grotto at the top. By this time we were so annoyed by the amount of restrictions to the public that he took the chains down for his photo. I guess these chains were to discourage small children from drowning themselves and adults from paddling in the water. Personally I would either give people credit for some common sense, or discourage small children by not letting them in, or let them suffer the consequences. Otherwise, unusually for Italy, it all gets a bit 'health and safety'.
Overall a very lovely garden with fabulous vistas, compact but with interest on each different terrace. Is it a 'bucket list' garden? For me it is grouped with other slightly similar Renaissance gardens at least one of which should be seen before you pop your gardener's clogs. I was glad that we had picked Villa Lante from this genre.
As I waited for the Bedsock to retrieve the car and collect me from the gates I noticed this chic, intricate, moth. I tweeted a photo of it requesting identification and
BTW A little brain teaser for you. 12 letters. What do you call someone who likes making love to an entomologist?