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The Gardens of Villa Reimann

Plato at Siracusa
January 23, 2021
Goliarda Sapienza
January 23, 2021
Plato at Siracusa
January 23, 2021
Goliarda Sapienza
January 23, 2021
Ph. © S.K.

The Gardens of Villa Reimann

 
“...one of the most evocative of Siracusa, from which at the foot of the gently-sloping hill, interrupted by the greenery of the gardens and vegetable plots, you look out over the cerulean blue of the harbour, encircled by the gentle line of the hills and distant from the azure of the Ionian Sea…”
This is what Christiane Reimann wrote in 1940 in a letter to the Minister of Fine Arts. In 1976, she decided to leave the Villa to the city council of Siracusa so that it could become the “permanent home to formative and educational activities, cultural events of university level or elevated intellectual interest, with the aim of contributing to the civic progress of the city”.
Villa Reimann stands in the heart of the city, not far from the Greek Theatre. Built in 1881, it was bought in 1933 by the Danish gentlewoman, Christiane Reimann. The gardens where she excavated a Greek necropolis "a grotticelle", are of interest in their own right because of the originality of the layout, and above all because of the quality and quantity of the exotic plant species the grounds contain.
Villa Reimann e i suoi giardini

“...one of the most evocative of Siracusa, from which at the foot of the gently-sloping hill, interrupted by the greenery of the gardens and vegetable plots, you look out over the cerulean blue of the harbour, encircled by the gentle line of the hills and distant from the azure of the Ionian Sea…”

Today the park covers about 17000mq and it is separated from the urban surroundings by a line of cypress and olive trees which act as a screen. In Springtime, the sweet scent of zagara - orange blossom - envelops the visitor who enters the garden. To the north lies the regularly laid-out citrus grove, the Garden of the Hesperides, created by Reimann herself. To the south lies an exotic garden typical of the plant collector, made up of a double row of flowerbeds that surround a fountain which in its simplicity, has maintained the beauty and elegance of the original classical scheme. From the wooden gazebo atop an artificial mound, the visitor enjoys an amazing view over the Neapolis Archaeological Park and the new town, as far as the beautiful island of Ortigia.
Of course the garden has its water features, just like an islamic garden, with fountains, basins and wells. The water flows in ancient irrigation channels through the entire citrus grove and the exotic garden.

 
The plant collections , mainly made up of plants from regions with a climate similar to the Mediterranean, consist of over 200 species of great scientific interest. The thousands of examples which make up these collections are also of importance for teaching, tourist and landscape purposes.
Of these collections, the succulent plants make up some 30% of the species, and include Agavaceae, Apocynaceae, Cactaceae, Crassulaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Liliaceae, Mesembryanthemaceae etc. Some of these are found in an original setting on the walls of the spiral staircase that leads round the belvedere gazebo of the villa.
There are also important Palmae and Cycadaceae including Erythea, Livistona, Chamaerops, Phoenix, Howea, Sabal, Jubaea, Washingtonia and Cycas types. From the small flower beds of evergreen shrubs, plants of tropical and sub-tropical origin emerge here and there: Ficus lyrata, Phytolacca dioica, Doxantha unguis cati, Acca sellowiana, Monstera deliciosa, Syzygium cumini, etc.

 
In the exotic garden there are a fair number of plant species characterised by the curious presence of poisonous sap which exudes from the plant, or which is found in the seeds or the pulp of the fruit. In these species, apparently opposing characteristics coexist, like toxicity and delicious scents, danger and vivid colours, so it is easy to forget the hidden hazards. The family of the Apocynaceae can count three examples itself: the Oleander (Nerium oleander), the yellow Oleander (Thevetia peruviana) and the Acocantera (Acocanthera venenata), used with arrows dipped in its sap to shoot down elephants. No less toxic are the Angels trumpets (Datura arborea) and the ‘mist tree’ or "scotano" (Cotinus coggygria), an anacardiaceae whose fruit looks like mist during the summer months.
In 1995, a census was made of the plant collections that flourish in the villa gardens, the first in half a century. The project included plans for appropriate signs and labelling, restoration of the exotic garden and the Garden of the Hesperides, and plans for opening to the public.
Novembre 2020
 
ANTONINO ATTARDO

Agronomo e paesaggista, specializzato in divulgazione agricola. Progettista e direttore dei lavori di sistemazione a verde di numerosi parchi pubblici e giardini privati e del restauro di diversi sentieri natura e di forestazione nel territorio ibleo. Socio fondatore e primo Presidente della Sezione Sicilia dell’Associazione Italiana di Architettura del Paesaggio, attualmente è componente della Speciale Commissione “Osservatorio Regionale per la qualità del paesaggio in Sicilia”. Premio nazionale “Città per il verde” nel 2000 e nel 2013, ha ricevuto una menzione speciale dal Ministero dei Beni Culturali nella candidatura al V Premio del Paesaggio del Consiglio d’Europa per il progetto di recupero degli antichi percorsi e valorizzazione dei paesaggi delle cave nel Val di Noto.
 
foto Attardo 11 Villa Reimann 8 © Ph. Antonio Gerbino
foto Attardo 3 Villa Reimann