La Traviata’s Favourite Flower

The camellias of the Pieve di Compito valley in the Pisan Mountain, which separates Lucca from Pisa like a natural “peace wall” between two formerly warring states, are by now of international status and people come to admire them from all parts of Europe.

Among visitors I did notice a large number of Germans which was explained by an important section of the beautiful exhibition dedicated to PilInitz palace where camellias first arrived in 1801.

PilInitz palace is near Dresden which I visited in 2001. There was a very moving variety called Frauenkirche named after that resurrected treasure of a church which had been part of the photographs of the devastating exhibition at Tate Modern recently.

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The varieties of this wonderful tree with flowers that always fall as a whole, without shedding individual petals, (as I know every morning to my cost when have to sweep the garden of those camellias from our own tree) are eternal and exquisite.

There was a very good section on Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, which has several schools and grand masters. I was particularly intrigued by the framing apparatus of this transcendental art.

Pieve di Compito is a lovely place for a visit with its gentle hills and mild micro climate. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts (e.g. at ) camellias arrived here in the early nineteenth century, largely thanks to English ex-pats who chose to stay among these hills during the torrid Tuscan summer in the plains.. The camellietum can be visited any time (see my post at ) but it’s when the festival takes place during the March week-ends that it’s possible to visit the gardens of the historic villas and truly take in the wonderful ambience of this extraordinary plant without which no-one would have been able to drink their favourite cuppa in this world.

We visited four villas, including the most gracious of them, the villa Orsi and the Villa Giovanetti. These noble, if somewhat dilapidated, mansions can only be visited at this time since they are all in private hands.

The weather was wonderfully sunny and I was so glad that I was able to take my three distinguished guests to this lovely exhibition after an absence of two years.


PS If you didn’t get the reason for the title it’s because Verdi’s “La Traviata” is based on Dumas senior’s (a visitor to Bagni di Lucca) romantic novel “La Dame aux Camellias”.





2 thoughts on “La Traviata’s Favourite Flower

  1. The such wide ranging varieties in colour petal formation and shape of flowers is truly amazing some remind me of roses others of dahlias others of pure camelias of course. I loved the Ikebana art of flower arrnanging pure art form very minimalist particularly pleasing simple lines and people travelled back on the bus clutching their wonderful creations I too will have a go as an Easter arrangement for the table Easter lunch. You really have to be on top form on the walking stakes as there are several hours walking to do uphill is the worst part but then it’s an easy and pleasant walk downhill towards the bus to the car park as it is obligatory to leave the car behind due to the narrow roads at Sant’Andrea di Compito a truly delightful relaxing area. I had discovered in London that the Camelia Sinensis is the basis of all teas black white green red yellow and really that leaf tea is truly the best tea that we should all try and use not the “floor sweepings used in tea bags!” I was shocked to learn this fact but this tea still seems refreshing!

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