Stay tuned for details. I will be leading a garden tour to the Pacific NW in July
of 2017 with Earthbound Expeditions.
Stay tuned for details. I will be leading a garden tour to the Pacific NW in July
of 2017 with Earthbound Expeditions.
The past six months I have been busy with family, all leading up to our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah on November 1. The day was wonderful in every way and now I can get back to working in my garden and thinking about the gardens of Ireland where I will lead a tour next June.
In my November garden Japanese maples, smoke tree and wonderful old fashioned single chrysanthemums are the plants of the moment. Here are a few scenes from photos I took today.
Gardens of the Emerald Isle With the Garden Expert Erica Glasener
June 14 -24, 2015
“May you live to be a hundred years, with one extra year to repent!”
Across thousands of years and thousands of miles, the myths and magic of Ireland beckon us… We hear the invitation to visit in her music, her dance, her stories and her smiles.
Join me along with a group of happy garden lovers as we delve deep into the enchanting and mysterious Gaelic culture. The journey begins in Dublin, where you’ll visit Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College and attend the celebrated World Flower Show, known as “the Olympics of flower arranging.”
Then, take in the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher and the delightful Dingle Peninsula. No trip to Ireland would be complete without pub crawls, traditional music and historical walking tours with colorful local characters. Throw in our signature leisurely pace and time for independent discovery and you have the ideal recipe for a fantastic adventure. The Irish await you… “Cead Mile Failte”—a hundred thousand welcomes!
TRIP AT A GLANCE
3 Nights 2 Nights 3 Nights 2 Nights
Overnight Trans-Atlantic Flight
Dublin, Ireland’s Capital
Kilkenny, Land of Castles and Monasteries Killarney, Gateway to Dingle
Galway & the Cliffs of Moher
Earthbound Expeditions Inc.
POB 11305, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 USA T. 206 842 9775 / F. 206 842 8280 www.EarthboundExpeditions.com
“May your home be filled with laughter, may your pockets be filled with gold And may you have all the happiness your Irish heart can hold.”
Powerscourt Gardens, National Stud Farms Estate and Japanese GardensPrivate garden visits plus the gorgeous garden of Helen Dillon, The gardens of Mount Usher , Dublin’s botanical Garden , Muckross House and Gardens, Visits to Ireland’s most beautiful gardens and parks , Historical Dublin: Trinity College, The Book of Kells & St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Spectacular Rock of Cashel , The Wild Wicklow Mountains , The gorgeous Dingle Peninsula , Ancient Monastic site of Glendalough Medieval Kilkenny Boat cruise to the Cliffs of Moher Lively town of Galway The dramatic landscape of the Burren Thoor Ballylee—home of W.B. Yeats. A wonderful group of like-minded fun travelers.
NOT INCLUDED: Travel insurance, international flight and any items not listed in your itinerary
11 Days/10 Nights (not including Int’l air)
$3,875PP Dbl. Occupancy (Land price with 21 to 27 garden lovers) $735 Single Supplement
Tour begins: Sunday, June 14, upon arrival at Dublin airport Tour culminates: Wednesday, June 24- after breakfast
Based on $1=.76 Euro
“Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.”
For detailed information and to sign up contact
Earthbound Expeditions Inc.
POB 11305, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 USA T. 206 842 9775 / F. 206 842 8280 www.EarthboundExpeditions.com
I can’t believe it’s already been two months since I returned from Southern Italy. I find I’m already thinking about my next trip. While the climate I live and garden in is very different from that of Sicily, the gardens and villas we visited were inspiring in many ways. As our guide (a Professor) at Villa Romana del Casale, which dates back to the second half of the third century, reminded us, nothing is new, what’s old is new, what’s new is old. This really sank in when we saw the detailed mosacis of the “bikini girls” depicted playing what looks like beach volleyball. They also appear to have pierced belly buttons!
But I digress. Getting back to the gardens. We started our trip in Rome where large Pinus pinea, also known as the umbrella pine or stone pine, lines many of the streets. This is a popular pine in the coastal regions of the Mediterranean and depending on who you talk to, sometimes considered a pest. Another common site are the window boxes, overflowing with color. I will never look at a common geranium (Pelargonium) in the same way.
From the rooftop garden at the Hotel Cecil in Rome, you look out and know that you are not in the US. The age of the buildings, beyond the Coliseum and the Vatican (we arrived a day early so we could visit both sites), is hard to comprehend when you come from such a young country.
Fortunately for me and our group, we had a wonderful guide who works with Earthbound Expeditons, Maria Cannavo. An American of Italian descent, Maria visited Italy years ago and decided she had to move there.She now resides in Sicily and took us to some wonderful places. While I could recognize many of the plants, Maria’s knowledge of the country, customs and language made our experience that much more special.
The first garden we visited was Villa d’Este in Tivoli. Extensive water gardens, fountains, nymphs, grottoes and lush green everywhere . The large scale, the different levels and the sound effects of the water all add to this enchanting place. The Villa was begun before 1540 by the Cardinal Bishop of Cordova, and the gardens are thought to have been almost completed by 1572. I quote here from Italian Villas and Their Gardens, by Edith Wharton with illustrations and photographs by Maxfield Parrish, first published in 1904. “But it is the omnipresent rush of water which gives the Este gardens their peculiar character. From the Anio, drawn up the hillside at incalculable cost and labor, a thousand rills gush downward, terrace by terrace, channeling the stone rails of the balusters, leaping from step to step, dripping into mossy conchs, flashing in spray from the horns of sea-gods and the jaws of mythical monsters, or forcing themselves in irrepressible overflow down the ivy-matted banks. “
Over the centuries the Villa has changed ownership many times and survived many events including abandonment and bombing. In 1920 the Villa d’Este became the property of the Italian State.
The next stop was, Villa San Michele which is located on Capri. We stayed in Positano and took a short ferry ride to Capri. Capri was buzzing with tourists but the view of the coast and water from San Michele made it worth the trip.
The highlights in Palermo included Mondelo, a fishing village, the open air markets and The Palermo Botanical Garden, a botanical gem where we saw magnificent specimens of different types of Ficus, cycads, white flowering bird of paradise and more. Our knowledgeable and charming guides, Cassandra, a landscape architect and Manlio, the curator, were informative and delightful.The gardens foundation dates from 1789 to 1795 and has been visited by both botanists and those who enjoy the beauty and peace of this garden in the city.
Two Villas we visited in Ravello, both offering great views of the Amalfi coast and interesting histories; Villa Cimbrone named for the rock cimbronium , on which it lies, and Villa Rufolo referred to as a “Garden of the Soul,” were lovely.
In addition to the gardens, there were magnificent olive trees, temples, cathedrals and of course delicious food and wine. My favorite cannoli was dipped in pistachio nuts( which also grow in Italy) and my favorite pasta was a ravioli stuffed with mushrooms. We bought a ravioli (looks like a ice cube tray) maker home and plan to try making our own.
We spent the last three nights in Taromina and what a jewel. In addition to gazing at the gorgeous coastline, I loved walking to restaurants and discovering side streets with wild capers growing out of a wall. This is a place I hope to return to.
These are just some of the hightlights from a great trip with a great group of people.
After I got home I discovered a small book on my shelves that I had forgotten I had. The Old Gardens of Italy by Mrs. Aubery Le Blond, first published in 1912. After this, my first trip to Italy, I really enjoyed looking through and reading her comments about Italian gardens.
I was fortunate that my husband and daughter got to join me on this trip.Just recently my daughter was talking about how much she liked Italy better than summer camp.So, where to next? I’ll keep you posted. Until then Ciao!
Last night I tossed and turned worrying about the potential bad weather that was predicted (tornadoes and thunderstorms) but this morning the rain stopped and my garden looks no worse for the wear. I rather like the effect of the snow-white petals which cover the ground around my Chinese snowball viburnum, Viburnum macrocephalum.
I am happy to report that it has only taken me about 6 years (my garden is 7 years old) to get my water feature operating. This is in part due to the help of my neighbor David. What a treat and the birds love it.
Despite the ever changing weather, this spring has been delightful and blooms are profuse. The air is filled with the scent of roses including ‘Perle d’Or’, ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ and ‘Buff Beauty,’ all favorites of mine. I favor roses that don’t require a lot of fuss but I think it made a difference that I fertilized last year and this spring with a special mix that my friend Rosemary shared with me. (more on that later). It also helps that we have had plenty of moisture. Colors seem more intense.
Other highlights include Amsonia (a cross, not sure of the name) and Clematis ‘Ramona’ which is doing what I hoped it would do and using Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ as a living trellis.
Hot weather hasn’t set in yet and foliage still looks fresh. I like the combination of Angelica keiskei (hard to find a source but Plant Delights offers it, see the attached link.
http://www.plantdelights.com/Angelica-keiskei-for-sale/Buy-Ashitaba/ with a Japanese maple, Heuchera ‘Caramel’ and Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow.’
Clematis ‘Arabella’ is just beginning and hardy geraniums are bursting with blooms. Siberian iris, it’s first spring in my garden, does not disappoint and a few alliums are beginning to flower. Another grouping of perennials that is rich with texture and color is the new growth of Amsonia hubrichtii, iris foliage and Heuchera ‘Mocha.’
In my dry woodland, a patch of a white form of the native dwarf crested iris (Iris cristata) is lovely, even if it only lasts for a short time. For a longer show, I am always happy to see variegated solomon’s seal, Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ when it arrives on the scene. Purple smoke tree and bronze fennel offer the perfect foil for hardy red amaryllis that will bloom later in May.
These are some of the highlights in my garden on this last day of April. I look forward to May and the botanical treats it offers. In just a few weeks I will be leaving for Italy. I’ll try to post some photos of gardens we visit. Stay tuned.
In 2012 I made my first visit to the Shirley Miller Wildfower Trail; the area is known as the “Pocket “ in North Georgia (near Lafayette) and was amazed at the variety of wildflowers, including trilliums, foamflower, violets and columbine just to name a few. The timing of our visit was such that the Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica, had already bloomed. Still, I was in awe of this botanical treasure and vowed to return.
This year, with the cold winter and reluctant spring, I was hopeful that April 3 would be a good time to view the bluebells in flower.
I went with three friends who were visiting the Pocket for the first time. As we approached the trail, I could feel my pulse quicken ( if you’ve ever seen masses of bluebells flowering in one spot you understand this reaction completely). For those of you not familiar with this beauty, here is some background information. Native to North America, Virginia bluebells (hardy from Zone 3 to 8 )occur in moist woodlands and river floodplains. The flowers are pink in bud and open to the most beautiful blue. In the wild, catching them at the perfect moment is a real treat. Blooming at the same time were celandine poppies, Stylophorum diphyllum. Also known as wood poppies, these perennials display bright yellow flowers against blue-green foliage. The combination of the celandine poppies and the bluebells is lovely and has inspired many a gardener to try and recreate in their own woodlands.
As we took photo after photo of this magnificent scene
(the photos never completely tell the story) it was hard to imagine that this planting had not been orchestrated by man. (it was not)
It’s also interesting to me that by mid-summer the foliage will die back and disappear completely until next year.
In addition to the bluebells, we saw masses of Dutchman’s breeches, Dicentra cucullaria (forming a lace carpet on the hillside), Phacelia bipinnatifida (don’t know a good common name), hepatica, Phlox, trilliums, sedum, foamflower and more.
While the boardwalk trail is not very long (not sure maybe ½ mile) it took us several hours to reach the end where we were rewarded with waterfalls, rock outcroppings and sites like hydrangeas growing out of rock crevices.
As we headed back to the car, we talked about our next visit and reflected on how glad we were that we had arrived early, as the small parking lot was beginning to fill up.
Last Thursday and Friday, March 27 and 28, I was at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia to give a lecture and teach a garden design workshop. This is an event that I look forward to every year. One of the things that makes this experience so enjoyable is the audience. This year I was once again rewarded with an interested and enthusiastic group. I also had the pleasure of being on the program with Andrea Wulf, award-winning author and historian. Her topic and title of her book The Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation provided an interesting and insightful look at the founding fathers and “how their attitudes towards plants, gardens, nature and agriculture shaped the American nation. To find out more about her writing visit www.andreawulf.com
When my mother and I were talking recently she described spring this year as reluctant. I have to agree that it got off to a slow start. The positive side to this is a banner year (at least here in the South) for saucer magnolias, flowering cherries, redbuds and more. It seems as if blooms have lasted longer and colors have been a bit brighter. At Callaway the first azaleas are showing color, including both native and exotic types. Redbuds linger and the cherries hang on to their blossoms before they cover the ground with white.
Dogwoods will be in full bloom by now and masses of azaleas too.
As I walked along the trail of the wildflower gardens, I was thrilled to spot trilliums, green and gold, Pachysandra procumbens , trout lilies and other woodland gems.
In my own garden Leucojums, Pulmonaria, hellebores and masses of daffodils are in full bloom. Minor bulbs including Scillas and grape hyacinths are also in flower. Yesterday temperatures shot up to over 70F and today it is predicted to be in the 80’s! Welcome to the South.
I look forward to watching Spring unfold with all that it has to offer.
Today is February 21, the sun is shining and hellebores, a mixed bag of hybrid seedlings, are the stars of the moment. Looking back to just over one week ago, it’s hard to believe that my garden was covered with heavy, wet snow.
For a moment I could appreciate how pretty it looked, covering all the dead leaves and plants waiting to be cut back. While I enjoyed the quiet beauty and brief reprieve from cleaning up my garden, (guilt-free for a few days), I am glad not to live in a climate where snow is a regular occurrence in winter.
Almost overnight, early daffodils are beginning to bloom and the forsythia buds are showing color. Yesterday was short sleeve weather and I decided to cut off the ratty foliage on my hellebores. The reward is the hellebores themselves, in shades of pink, maroon, white, green and dark purple. These unnamed seedlings delight me and persist for weeks. When they finally begin to fade, their bedmates, ferns of several types will fill in with lush green growth.
While I know better than to think we have seen the last of winter, these late winter flowers have me feeling “guardedly optimistic.” And, tomorrow I look forward to attending a symposium titled “The Inspired Gardener.”
Presented by the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Georgia Perennial Plant Association, it takes place at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. There are still a few spaces left (don’t count on lunch though).
For more information visit http://www.georgiaperennial.org/events/
In March I will be giving a lecture and teaching a workshop at Callaway Gardens ( always a great group) on garden design and in April I am excited to return to Barnsley Gardens (now a resort in Adairsville, GA) to teach a workshop and give a tour. I worked at Barnsley many years ago helping to prepare the garden for its debut as a public garden.
Just in case you missed the news, I am leading a tour to Southern Italy this spring and a few spaces are still available. It should be a great trip if you like gardens, good food and Italy! Check out this link for the details.
Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah and Christmas will be here before you know it.If you’re having a hard time figuring out what to get the plant lovers and gardeners on your list, here are a few suggestions. For Georgia gardeners, join me and my coauthor Walter Reeves on Saturday, December 7, from 12noon until 1pm at Eagle Eye Books in Decatur (www.eagleeyebooks.com) and purchase a copy of our new revised and updated (in its former life it was the Georgia Gardener’s Guide)
Georgia Getting Started Garden Guide. Bring your garden questions and checkbook. To make it even more enticing, when you purchase one of our new books, Eagle Eye will offer a 20% discount on any other titles written by Walter or me (while the stock lasts.)
In addition to books on gardening, there are still some worthwhile magazines being published to consider as gifts. I don’t think you can go wrong with a gift subscription to Gardens Illustrated which always inspires me with its photography and writing even if it is pricey. Reading articles by the likes of Fergus Garrett and Beth Chatto make it a worthwhile investment. (for US subscriptions email email@example.com)
Gift certificates for memberships to your favorite nonprofit or charity, given in honor of a friend or family member are satisfying and keep you from buying “stuff” that nobody wants or needs. Locally I plan to support the Atlanta Food Bank (www.acfb.org) and Trees Atlanta (http://treesatlanta.org/who-we-are/the-kendeda-center/). Both do great work and I love food and trees! For $25 or more, Trees Atlanta will plant a tree to honor someone of your choosing. A $35 dollar donation to the Atlanta Food Bank translates to 140 meals. (wow)
At the other end of the spectrum of giving maybe you want to give a big once-in-a lifetime gift. How about sending your garden person on a trip to Southern Italy with me next spring, May 19-30, 2014. Organized by Earthbound Expeditions, it promises to be interesting and filled with beautiful gardens and tasty meals.
Of course some of the best gifts are gifts of time and energy. I think I will ask my husband and daughter to help me rake the yard and maybe I will get caught up before spring.
A few words about fall this year
Fall here in Georgia arrived late but was colorful and a few trees are still hanging on to brilliant foliage. My own garden had its moments but now the dead leaves and withered perennials are a daily reminder that I need to get out into the garden and clean up.
I was fortunate to make a quick trip to Seattle right before Thanksgiving to visit with my two best friends. One of my friends commented that she thought fall color was some of the best she had seen in Seattle in recent years. As I walked around her neighborhood in Queen Anne I agreed, it was noteworthy.
If I’m lucky I make a trip to Seattle once a year. This fall we headed to Orcas island for a few days and despite the mostly rainy weather (the sun did come out one day) we had a great time. A pleasant surprise was the local organic market where we purchased some of the best tasting (they looked good too) pears I have ever had. There was also the usual fare at this time of year including kale, lettuce and apples, but the pears were amazing. (I don’t use that word lightly) What made the story even more interesting is the man selling them has been offering them for 30 years at this market and brought some of the original scion wood, which he used for grafts from Holland ( It think it was Holland). Anyway, if you get to Orcas be sure to check out the local organic market, it’s inside an old building.
”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.
INCLUDED IN YOUR JOURNEY
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
*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.
-ITINERARY DETAILS SUBJECT TO CHANGE-
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 http://woodlandgardensorganic.com/
It depends on what part of the country you live in but in Georgia, Georgia Organics, http://georgiaorganics.org/ is a great resource for information about organic food, sources, how to grow it, etc.