Across Italy, the crocus are springing and the swallows and swifts will soon arrive after their long migrations from Africa. At midday, jackets are shed. We are in the mood to consider the perfect spring day.
We are going with my mother and the children to Veneto, near Verona and just south of Garda.
Our destination is the Parco Giardino Sigurta’, worth a full morning’s visit. We are often asked to plan garden visits, and have ourselves explored well over one hundred Italian gardens; the children put Sigurta’ up at the top of their list, and for good reason. My mother and Isabel appreciate the little train that takes them around, accompanied by a knowledgeable botanist who provides useful commentary, while Nathan Louis, Robert and I use the garden’s bicycles for our in-depth exploring of this unique 125 acre botanical nirvana.
The Park originated as the walled gardens (1617) of the Villa Maffei. Over a 40 year period during the first part of the 20th century, under the ministrations of the present owner’s grandfather (who channeled water to the garden), Sigurta’ became the luxuriant spectacle that it is today. Next month one million tulips will emerge (one million), followed in April by thousands and thousands of iris whose yellow, orange and purple petals line kilometers of avenues in an extraordinary riot of color. The roses follow and then come the quite splendid water lilies, tropical and local water varieties, that bob lightly on the waters of the eighteen ornamental lakes displaying their pale pink, deep red, cyclamen-colored, white and yellow petals.
What makes this morning all the more Italian is that we can, after a deeply satisfying morning, walk a few minutes and settle down at a riverside table here…
.. along the banks of the swift flowing Mincio. Here our osteria, one we have come to for thirty years, is bucolically sited, the stuff of dreams. We gaze over the clear waters that rush out of Lake Garda, pour ourselves a glass of the excellent house prosecco, and consider whether to have the house specialty pumpkin tortelli or the house specialty traditional tortelli. A difficult decision. Our tablemates are cheerful, prosperous citizens from Verona, Brescia and Mantova, and very pleasing to watch. Napkins round our necks, we settle down to our springtime lunch.