A romantic Italian garden designed by Dan Pearson
Hidden deep in the folds of the Castelli Romani hills 50km south of Rome, Torrecchia Vecchia is a place where nature and man have come together to make a truly extraordinary garden. Arriving there is all part of the experience: off the main road, a two-mile-long track passes through ancient oak woodlands and rolling fields of wild grasses, mint and lemon balm, before finally climbing a steep incline towards the ruins of an imposing 12th-century castle. Through the ancient gateway you find yourself within the walls of an abandoned medieval village, whose ruined buildings, romantically swathed with roses, vines and wisteria, form the bones of the garden.
In 1995 the owners of Torrecchia, Violante and Carlos Caracciolo, commissioned Dan Pearson to develop the garden that had been started by Lauro Marchetti several years earlier. Inspired by the surrounding landscape with its gnarled cork oaks and wildflower meadows, Dan Pearson began to lift the garden from its centuries-long slumber, planting informal borders and festooning the ruined buildings with climbing roses and white wisteria. He planted a geometric stand of pomegranate trees with box domes underneath to make an imposing entrance courtyard, and evergreen camphor trees to provide shade on the hottest days of the year. He also put in a simple swimming pool inside the ruins of the castle, and later a raised water tank in the sunken garden, an outdoor room enclosed by four ancient walls.
More than two decades later, the garden has been taken over by a new generation of the family, but is still being gardened in a gentle way, bridging the transition from garden to wild. It is one of the most atmospheric, moving places I have been to, and although it isn't open to the public, the garden is sometimes open by appointment.
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