There’s no escaping the gardening mother ship. English gardeners have made their influence felt everywhere. We read their books, we try to grow their favorite plants (which often fail here), and we visit their masterpieces. A lush and gracious reminder of the British urge to plant and landscape remains in the form of the Taormina public gardens, located right next to the hotel where we stayed.
Lady Florence Trevelyan (1852-1907, shown above) was a distant relative of Queen Victoria and spent much of her youth at Balmoral, where she and Victoria would discuss their shared interests in birds and botany (here are the two, below).
However, Trevelyan fell prey to the notorious charms of the future Edward VII, who was already married. This sort of thing never went over well with Victoria, so Trevelyan was asked to leave England in 1879. She settled in Taormina, where there was already a community of British aristocrats, married Salvatore Cacciola, a wealthy professor, built a villa, and, with the help of 40 Sicilian farmers, created the gardens. They were left to the town in her will.
If these gardens were not situated high above the bay with a view of Isola Bella and Etna, maybe they wouldn’t be so special. But they would still be distinctive, largely because of several structures, somewhat inspired by Asian architecture, scattered about.
I wasn’t able to climb into them, but they may have been intended by Trevelyan for bird-watching. There are lovely walkways bordered by olive trees, some neatly clipped shrubbery designs, bulbs, and plenty of tropicals. The gardens are on 3 different levels, which also adds to their charms. There’s also a weird rock array and, even stranger, some odd remnants of WWII, including a two-man submarine/torpedo that the Germans used. They’d have to stay in it long enough to send it on its way and then the pilots/drivers (?) would ditch.
One doubts if vintage armaments are exactly the kind of focal point Lady Florence would have wanted; what you see above is more like it. But kids love the little torpedo. It is kind of cute.