Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Italy's Trautmansdorff Castle Gardens - the future of botanical gardens

Italy's most beautiful garden (2005, popular vote)
Number six on Europe’s Top Ten Gardens. (2006)
International Garden of the Year (2013 International Garden Tourism Conference, Toronto)

On our recent trip to Italy, we made plans to visit the Gardens of Trautmansdorff Castle. I had met their Strategic Marketing Director, Dr. Heike Platter, at the International Garden Tourism Conference–held in Toronto in March this year–where Trautsmandorff won the International Garden of the Year award. One of my garden tourism affiliations, Buffalo's National Garden Festival, won the Conference's Promotion of the Year Award. Other awardees came from France, Japan, Portugal, England, Australia and more.
Marketing Director
Heike Platter and me.

For our visit, we stayed in Verona, and made a day trip to Trautmansdorff which is in Merano, a city in northern Italy in an area called South Tyrol (Südtirol/Alto Adige), near the Austrian border (about a two-hour trip from Verona). Once there, we were actually closer to Innsbruck than we were Verona!

I do think it is a very significant botanical park. I hesitate to call it a botanical garden - it is so much more than that. Imagine if you crossed the educational aspects of a botanical garden with the entertainment value of creative gardeners of Disney World with the relaxing and recreational value of a beautifully-designed outdoor private garden (many of them!), and a kids playground. Now add in a top-flight restaurant, a sculpture-park's-worth of artists' creations, weekly concerts and socializing events, and a small-scale zoo. Now you're getting the picture. Now add in a couple Disney EPCOT-like multimedia shows. Now you have a better idea of what makes it unique in the gardening world.

The garden experience starts
in the parking lot. Permeable, grass-planted
paving for cars. In many areas, grape arbors
are built as sun shades over parking spots.

I really think it represents the future of botanical gardens as an educational, entertainment, and exhibition venue. At least the botanical gardens found here in the U.S. This garden is only about 12 years old - though seven years of work went into it before it even opened in 2001.

The 80 distinct garden exhibitions cover about 30 acres in a amphitheater-like setting that rises more than 300 feet from its lowest point along the side of the Tyrolean hills, walking distance from Merano's city center. Because of the unique submediterranean climate of the area, protected by the mountains of the Dolomites (the southern Alps), and almost constant sunshine, plants from around the world are comfortable here (the January average temperature is 53º). Including palm trees. Hardy palm trees can grow where planted in northern Europe (England and Scotland come to mind), but this is about the most northern part of the world where palm trees grow naturally.

These photos give you an overall picture of the park. I'll post, in the next few days, more detailed photos/commentary about the park – it is large and overwhelming. It takes a good three hours to go through it at a good pace. Five to six hours would be enough time to explore all it has to offer.

The walk from the parking lot to the entrance starts the plantings - arbors for shade, grasses for softening edges.
From a distance you start to see some of the displays. The mountainside setting allows for you to "preview," or be teased by,
the displays. That just doesn't happen in flat/level settings for parks.
You can also get a preview of one of the two "overlooks" designed by engineers.
These seemed like modern interpretations of Renaissance garden belvederes to me.
The Castle itself is the centerpiece of the Gardens. The Castle contains a Tyrolean Tourism Museum, the Garden's Schlossgarten Restaurant and more.
The city of Merano, famous for its thermal spas (which we also took advantage of!) is only a short walk away.
The Gardens are divided into sections representing regions of the world. Here you see the sun gardens above the water and Terraced gardens
Similar view, but you can better see the Dolomites in the background and appreciate the mountainous setting of the region.
Just outside Trautmansdorff are the vineyards of Sudtirol - one of the oldest wine regions in Europe.
A complex series of ever-changing, winding, switchback paths ensure you see all areas of the park.
I really like the ability to get an overview of what we'd be seeing. Most French and Italian garden design of private gardens - and even public gardens- is all about revealing the scenery as you go along, more and more opening up as you progress - including hidden garden rooms and gardens that lead to unexpected experiences. This garden breaks that mold by constantly teasing you with the next great artists pavilion, the next plant grouping, the next exhibition, the next explosion of color and so on.
Around the lake is where Trautmansdorff gets social. The upper right white building is the Palm Café at the Lily Pond features Friday "happy hours" with food, drink and music. The structure on the left (covered by trees) is the Lake Stage, where larger bands set up to play. Trautmansdorff presents world-class concerts highlighting music from different continents. The open-air concert series has become one of the most important world music festivals in Italy, and has already brought well-established musical stars to the floating stage. The Audience sits around the lake. With their lighting schemes, it's beautiful at night.
Seating for concerts to the right. The structure seen here is an artist's pavilion structure representing water lilies.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, wowowowowow! Tease is right. Can't wait to see more. What an experience.

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    Replies
    1. It's a first-class run park too. Impeccably maintained and immaculate.

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  2. You are sooo lucky! I lived in Italy for a year and never saw anything horticulturally, that is, as nice as place. I will have to add this to my bucket list. Wouldn't it be great if Buffalo could do something reminiscent of this project, say on the waterfront. You've set the stage, with Garden Walk Buffalo. Wish the politicians would take this ball and run with it.

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    Replies
    1. This is the number one tourist destination in this area of Italy. It is a public facility. I don't think anything like this would ever work in Buffalo. There is little support for garden tourism and especially nothing in the league of this park - even though it is an overwhelming success for an area of Italy with scant access to even an airport to bring in tourists.

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