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Archive for October, 2013

Tour Gardens of Southern Italy – May 2014

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Rome * Amalfi Coast * Sicily

Hosted by horticulturist Erica Glasener

May 19-30, 2014

Italian cypress in Atlanta garden

”To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all,
for Sicily is the clue to everything.”
Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Join horticulturist and author Erica Glasener in Southern Italy this Spring.  Johann Wolfang Goethe had it right when he boasted of the mysteries of this ancient land, for Sicily and Southern Italy are stunning regions which few travelers will ever visit… or understand. On this one of a kind gardening and culinary adventure you’ll sample some of Italy’s most celebrated dishes and visit some of the most stunning public and private gardens. Savor Spaghetti alle Vongole, fresh Mozzarella di bufala, and Sicily’s tasty olive oil. Along the way, you’ll delve deep into the historic richness of Southern Italy and Sicily and meet some interesting gardeners. Here is your opportunity to experience first-hand perfect Greek temples, elaborate Roman gardens, Medieval Norman castles and colorful Moorish markets.


1 Night Historic Rome
3 Nights Positano/Amalfi Coast
1 Night Sunset Cruise from Naples to Palermo
2 Nights Palermo, Capital of Sicily
1 Night Agrigento, Valley of the Temples
3 Nights Taormina, the Jewel of the Mediterranean


The stunning gardens of Southern Italy • Ancient Rome • Ancient Pompeii • a visit to Naples’ stunning Archeological museum • the glistening Amalfi Coast • the white-washed village of Positano • The gardens of Amalfi, Capri and Ischia • Taormina and her Greek theater • an expedition to Mount Etna • the Roman mosaics of the Villa Casale • Sicily’s towering hill towns • Palermo’s colorful outdoor markets • the Byzantine/Norman mosaics of Monreale, Sicily’s grandest monastery • historic walks with local guides • wine and cheese tastings • an interesting small group of fellow travelers.


  • Hosted by Erica Glasener
  • A savvy Earthbound Expeditions guide
  • Eleven nights of accommodation in charming hotels, historic villas and magical monasteries (all rooms with private bath)
  • An entertaining & informative cooking classes (followed by either lunch or dinner)
  • Private garden visits as listed in your garden itinerary
  • All breakfasts and twelve additional meals (featuring country picnics, local trattoria’s and wine estates)
  • Transportation by private air-conditioned bus
  • Cruise and cabin from Naples to Sicily
  • An excursion to towering Mount Vesuvia and/or Etna
  • Entrances to castles, Greek temples, museums and other special events listed in your itinerary
  • Historic walks with knowledgeable local guides
  • Gratuities for your guide and driver and local guides
  • Wine, olive oil and cheese tastings at the producers
  • Regional and city maps, reading and video lists

13 Days/12 Nights (when including overnight flight)
$3,995 per person in a double shared room (land) based on 24-35 guests
$795 Single Supplement (waived if you are willing to share and a roommate is found)
Tour begins in Rome at 6:00pm on May 19-
Tour ends in Taormina, Sicily on May 30-
*NOTE: Prices based on an exchange rate of .77 Euro = $1USD

SAVE $200
*Alumni Save $100
*Make your final payment by check and save $100

Here’s how your journey will unfold…

DAY 1: Depart North America for historic Rome
Arrive early and spend a few additional days exploring Rome. Note: Be sure to book your flight to depart on May 18th in order to arrive by the 19th.

DAY 2: Arrive in Rome
All roads lead to Rome, which happens to be perfectly located to begin our dive into southern Italy. Please meet in the lobby of the hotel at 7:00pm this evening for a welcome dinner hosted by Erica Glasener and your guide. Your journey truly begins tomorrow morning at 8:30am after you have enjoyed a traditional Roman breakfast. Sleep in Rome

DAY 3: Rome to Positano via Naples and Villa d’Este gardens
The Villa d’Este in Tivoli, with its palace and garden, is one of the most remarkable and comprehensive illustrations of Renaissance culture at its most refined. Its innovative design along with the architectural components in the garden (fountains, ornamental basins, etc.) make this a unique example of an Italian 16th-century garden. The Villa d’Este, one of the first giardini delle meraviglie, was an early model for the development of European gardens. After our guided visit we drive south to the Amalfi coast and our village home, Positano. Sleep in Positano

DAY 4: The Island of Capri
Oh…. decisions, decisions. Shall you play the part of Emperor Tiberius and stroll through The island of Capri, or meander through the little alleyways of quaint Positano? This is a great day to practice the art of far’ niente (doing nothing at all). Or, join your guide and host for a full day excursion as together we hop a ferry and head to the island of Capri where we’ll tour the Villa San Michele gardens. Sleep in Positano

DAY 5: The Amalfi Coast and The Villa Cimbrone Garden, Ravello
Not to be missed is the coastal town of Amalfi. In the 10th century, the maritime state of Amalfi was an economic powerhouse. Her numerous ships plied the waters of the Mediterranean Sea in search of commerce and new conquests. In the middle ages every city (if it was of any importance) required a relic which would bring good fortune for its inhabitants. Not to be outdone, Amalfi chose Saint Andrew, who is now buried beneath her remarkable cathedral. After exploring Amalfi, we’ll drive thirty minutes into the hills where you’ll have time to visit the quaint white washed town of Ravello and the gardens of the Villa Cimbrone.

“Incomparable… rising above the roses and oleanders on a plateau whence the gaze sweeps to the sea.” This was the description of Villa Cimbrone given in summer 1835 by the German traveller Gregorovius, who was in no doubt about the charms and magic of this place.

The Villa and its wonderful grounds, which have been compared to the “Gardens of Armida amongst the roses and the hydrangeas”, have remote origins that are intermingled with the history of Ravello itself. Early archive documents from the eleventh century tell us that the Villa was built on a headland of a vast estate called “Cimbronium”, from which it got its name.

The current complex at Villa Cimbrone, consisting of the main building and the centuries-old six hectare park, is universally recognized as one of the most important sites – in landscaping and botanical terms – produced by the English romantic culture in the Mediterranean area in the late 19th and early 20th century, along with the Hanbury Botanical Gardens and Russell Page’s “La Mortella” on Ischia.

In addition we’ll visit the Villa Rufolo which is famous for its fabulous 19th-century gardens. Commanding mesmerising views, they are packed with exotic colors, artistically

crumbling towers and luxurious blooms. On seeing them in 1880, Wagner wrote that he had found the garden of Klingsor (setting for the second act of his opera Parsifal). Today the gardens are used to stage concerts during the town’s celebrated festival.

DAY 6: Pompeii and Naples Archeological Museum
After a lazy morning in Positano we relive the splendors of ancient Pompeii and then enjoy a private tour of the National Archeological Museum. In the early evening we’ll board our ship for our sunset departure to Palermo, Sicily. Sleep on board the ferry to Sicily.

About the Ancient Gardens of Pompeii

Gardens in Roman towns began as a limited feature at the very back of the house known as a hortus. An example can be found at the House of the Surgeon in Pompeii. Essentially practical rather than ornamental, they were used for growing vegetables and herbs for the household.  A whole range of flowers and plants were popular in Roman gardens. Herbs were essential, being useful for culinary and medicinal use. Thyme, mint, savory, celery seed, basil, bay and hyssop were a few of the popular ones. Favorite flowers include roses, narcissi, oleanders, violets, crocus, narcissus, lily, gladioli, iris, poppy, amaranth and wildflowers in general. Ivy, acanthus, myrtle, box and yew appeared in more complex gardens, as did plane and Cyprus trees. The crucial factor in deciding what appeared in the garden was size.

DAY 7: Colorful outdoor Markets & Stunning Cathedrals
From the 9th to the 12th centuries, Palermo was an unrivalled city of learning and famous for her wealthy court. Our day begins with a walk to a nearby market where you may want to stroll through endless alleyways brimming with fish stalls, fruit stands and bakeries. Our exploration continues to the core of Palermo’s Arab and Norman roots with a visit to the towns main cathedral. It is here where you’ll find buried the Kings of Sicily. Sleep in Palermo.

DAY 8: Botanical gardens of Palermo and the World Heritage Site of Monreale
The Botanical Gardens (Orto Botanico) of Palermo are among the oldest modern centers for botanical studies in the Mediterranean region. The park houses a greenhouse (glasshouse), seed and dried plant repository, catalogue archive, and more than ten hectares of outdoor gardens in the busy centre of what is today Sicily’s largest city. The Orto Botanico is home to hundreds of tropical and semi-tropical plants from around the world, many of which were introduced into Europe by this unique organisation, now administered by the University of Palermo. The medieval kings of Sicily had vast gardens around the palaces known as the Cuba and the Zisa, but in terms of modern botany, the Orto Botanical was founded with eighteenth century biological principles in mind. The Royal Academy of Studies, the university of its day, first established a botanical institute at Palermo in 1779 under the auspices of the government of King Francesco I of the Two Sicilies. One of the more important roles of the Botanical Gardens is cataloging the wild plants found in Sicily.

Our exploration of the area continues with a visit to the Monastery of Monreale. The Cathedral of Monreale (Monreale, means “Royal Mountain” in Italian) is set on the lower

slopes of Mount Caputu overlooking Palermo. The history of this island in southern Italy is shaped by two invasions and occupations, that of the Arabs in the ninth century and the Normans in the eleventh century. The Monreale Cathedral is the last Norman church built (by Wililam II in the twelfth century) in Sicily, and today it is one of the most beautiful and finest existing Norman structures in the world. Inside this UNESCO protected site you find richest Byzantine mosaics in Italy, embellished with more than two tons of pure gold. Sleep in Palermo.

DAY 9: Palermo to Agrigento via the ancient Greek cities of Selinunte & Segesta
Leaving Palermo behind, we drive south towards Agrigento. Along the way we’ll take in two of Magna Grecia’s most fascinating sights, Segesta and Selinunte, both of which are burst with ancient treasures. Take time to admire the grace and ingenuity of Greek architects and have a picnic at a nearby temple. Our drive today culminates with a stunning view of the Valley of the Temples. Let’s sample some of her spicy dishes tonight in the old town of Agrigento where we might even part take in the evening Passagiatta (neighborhood social stroll). Sleep in Agrigento.

DAY 10: Mount Etna, a wine tasting then on to Taromina
Belching hot lava and smoke, Mount Etna towers over Sicily. Standing at nearly 11,000 feet her flames and frequent eruptions were famous even in Antiquity. Virgil, in the 570 BC wrote about her power and the Greeks believed that Vulcan, God of fire, lived within her crater. According to a local legend, the soul of Elizabeth I of England now resides in Etna; a deal she made with the devil in exchange for his help during her reign. This morning, we’ll set off to explore Mt. Etna and then enjoy lunch and a tasting at a local winery before driving west into central Sicily. Sleep near Taromina

DAY 11 & 12: Taormina and environ
Situated below Mount Etna, overlooking the sea, is an antique Mediterranean jewel. Taormina was founded by the Greeks in the eighth century BC, and later, in the 19th century, became a popular haunt for the English aristocracy. Men like Oscar Wilde and D.H. Lawrence, who was inspired to write Lady Chatterly’s Lover from his experiences here, flocked to Taormina in order to escape the doldrums of conservative London.

After a introductory guided tour in through the Greek theatre and town center your free to lose yourself in streets lined with flower-filled balconies and surprisingly tranquil piazzas. Catch a glimpse of the ocean through palms and bougainvillea. Sleep near Taormina

DAY 13: Tour over after breakfast
Some of you will fly home today. Those of you staying in Italy may consult your guide for post-tour planning assistance.

Buon Viaggio!


My Favorite Organic Farmers-Woodland Gardens Organic Farm

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

My friends and family know that I love to eat. Some might say that I live to eat. I also love to cook. With this in mind, every Saturday morning when I’m in town, I get up about 6am so that I can be sure to get in line and wait for my local organic farmer’s market (Morningside Farmers Market) to open at 7:30am. There are a few of us who meet (often it is still dark) and wait for the farmers to set up their stands. Typically the conversations center around food. Last week we were excited because we knew that Woodland Gardens would be offering their first carrots of the season. What’s the big deal you might wonder? All I can tell you is that these are by far the most delicious carrots I have ever eaten. I have made a few feeble attempts to grow carrots but with not great results.

lettuces in flats in greenhouse

In addition to carrots, Woodland and the other farms, including Crystal Organic and D&A Farm, offer a large variety of organic produce ranging from the familiar tomatoes to the more exotic fresh ginger or turmeric. The market is open year around and it’s always a treat to see what they will have each week.

tomatoes in heated greenhouse, October

Yesterday my friend Anne invited me to join her for a visit to Woodland Gardens Organic Farm in Winterville, GA which is close to Athens, GA. Having been a loyal patron for many years, I was excited to finally visit their farm. John Cooper showed us around and told us about some of their techniques. One of the first things I noticed was how clean they keep all the work areas. And, of course the produce is beautiful! They have heated greenhouses for starting seeds and for growing certain crops like lettuces, micro-greens, cucumbers (amazing vines whose individual seeds can cost up to $1.00 each) tomatoes and even celery!

Tyria cucumbers in October

Outside I was in awe of their beautiful compost piles. John stressed that the most important component of your soil when you garden is the organic matter (it should be 4% of the makeup of the soil). He also extolled the virtues of cover crops. They like to use rye, Austrian winter peas, oats and clover. He says it’s important that you don’t let the cover crops set seed. Otherwise you will have crops like rye coming up in your beds. However the roots of cover crops provide great organic matter.

Savoy Cabbage

Some of the crops growing in the fields (they have 12 acres in production) in early Octoberinclude Savoy cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and even non edibles like zinnias, Salvia leucantha(Mexican sage), cosmos and the fragrant tuberose. In addition to produce, they sell cut flowers.


Farm manager) and John Cooper do. I seek out organic and local food whenever possible. Not only does it look and taste better than anything I buy from the grocery store; I like the idea of eating food that has been treated with the minimum amount of pesticides. For more information about Woodland Gardens Organic Farm visit

Zinnias in October

It depends on what part of the country you live in but in Georgia, Georgia Organics, is a great resource for information about organic food, sources, how to grow it, etc.