Camellias originate in eastern and southern Asia and were introduced into Europe during the eighteenth century. The tea plant is a member of the camellia family and, indeed, the expansion of the tea trade enabled many new varieties to be brought into Europe. Hybridization did the rest.
Every March at Sant’Andrea di Compito, by the slopes of the Monte Pisano, south of Lucca there is a camellia festival where one can fully appreciate the variety of flower forms and colours of this perfume-less plant. A shuttle bus takes you to the camellias – the only way to get there as the narrow roads would soon be clogged up with cars. The camellarium is spectacular at this time, the mill-stream walk is delightful.
The exhibitions are most informative, there are many stalls selling local products and there are also musical events.
The camellia festival of Sant’Andrea is something we always try to attend. You can read my account of our visit there in 2013 at
and in 2015 at
https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/la-traviatas-favourite-flower/ when Sandra’s mum, then 93 years old, accompanied us.
And in 2016 at
Why choose this area for camellias? The fact is that the climate is ideal for them. It was the English ex-pats of the nineteenth century, escaping from the torrid summer of the Tuscan plains, who discovered this and introduced the camellia to these hills. Indeed, dotted around the Compitese are many aristocratic villas complete with their luscious camellias
and there is even a society dedicated to old varieties of camellias in Lucca province.
Could I add anything new about the visit to the camellias this year? Not much except that as things of beauty these flowering shrubs remain a joy for ever.
The day started off very sunny but storm cloud started to gather in the late afternoon. However, the rain held off until the last stretch of my homeward journey.
The setting of the camellia festa is so very beautiful. Sant’Andrea is nestled in a valley of the Pisan hills and the town is quiet charming. Near the entrance is an exhibition centre with some prize camellias.
There was a section on the Japanese art of braiding known as Kumihimo and using a special loom. These braids are used to fasten the button-less Kimono.
An open-air exhibition brought photographs, whimsical sculptures and sly cartoons together.
There was also a tea ceremony in which we were allowed to participate.
At the top of the Sant’Andrea is the magnificent parish church.
I arrived in time for a concert given by an unusual ensemble consisting of two double bases, accordion and flute. The fine performance included pieces by Piazzolla, Bartok, Domenico Scarlatti and Bottesini, who was the Paganini of the double bass.
Today is the final day of the Camellia show in the Compitese. So if you are in the area and haven’t been there do so now! It would be truly sad to miss one of Lucchesia’s most colourful and evocative events.
PS If you fancy your cup of tea not only can you buy delicious camellia tea but you can have the ultimate Italian invention: camellia-tea flavoured ice-cream!