Christ stopped at Ischia

cactus loungeA winter holiday in Ischia is almost as enjoyable as a summer holiday: the cold air (but “cold” is only in a manner of speaking) enhances the chemistry of water and fire that characterize this spa land, from which sprout lush gardens.
At Giardini Ravino, for example, you can admire the most important European collection of succulent plants (those that are defined in common language “succulents”), the most important gathering in quantity, variety and size of the specimens. The Giardini Ravino are a kind of miniature Mexico: even the structures hosting services remind the Mexican pueblos, demonstrating historical and cultural continuity and contiguity of the ancient Spanish colonies, South America and southern Italy.

Besides the Amerindian and Mediterranean plants, at Giardini Ravino there are botanical essences of everywhere.
There are, for example Araucariae (the equivalent of our conifers in the Southern Hemisphere), including the very rare Wollemia nobilis, plant that dates back to the Jurassic period when only the fossil cast was knew, until 1994, when David Noble rediscovered it in the valley of the Wollemi, in the Blue Mountains of Australia.

To put together a collection like that, it took more than fifty years of passion and ten years of sailing all the seas by Captain Giuseppe D'Ambra, a long-term official, who from every journey has brought plants, seeds, cutlings.
In time, Giuseppe D’Ambra moves on ‘homemakers’ routes, but continues to enrich his botanical collection with a shrewd acquisitions campaign and exchanges between specialized nurseries, botanical gardens, collectors. The varied plant mass that is accumulated is crammed in all the open spaces of Villa Ravino, the welcoming apartment that Edith, noticed captain’s wife, has founded and continues as the main activities of the family. Until, in 2001, the family purchases a plot of land adjacent to the residence and the immense green heritage of Giuseppe D'Ambra finds adequate accommodation in what are now the Giardini Ravino.
The planting of the plants, which had been always grown in pots, caused an explosive growth of the specimens, caused by favorable exposure to the west and the favorable climate of the island.
Both short and mild is the cold season in Ischia, it has never completely protected from adverse weather conditions, especially for species from the tropics and the equator.
In winter, the Giardini Ravino, with its 6.000 square meters, reveals its secrets to the lucky visitors who enjoy a stay out of season. They can glean a bit of the wisdom of a man who has become a leading expert of the world of succulents.
For example, a transparent film protects the excess of rain or from the rare and short frosts many of the specimens. It is thus to create a sculptural effect worthy of the renowned facilities of the land artist Christo.

What in the Bulgarian artist born from the genius of aesthetics, in Giuseppe D’Ambra rises from ingenuity of necessity and yet the visual effect is no less interesting. So the Giardini Ravino are not only a botanical park, but also an art gallery outdoors, where rethink the relationship between man and nature: a nature that in the decomposition finds its renewal and a creature who at the breakup opposes as may, registering his acts in the space in which they live but which aims to overcome. In short, a simple measure of practical gardening is to be a moral meditation on life and death, that the winter season is propitious, and an earth worker 75years old like Captain D'Ambra who turns to be the the right company.
However, Petrarca warns, “Zephyr returns and brings fair weather”. In March, the artistic packaging wrapped around the cactus is removed, often with the help of customers that spend winter at the Residence Villa Ravino. ‘Individual lifestyle’ Travelers that, together with the proximity and safety of the goal, the beauty of the landscape and the charm of the setting, the mild climate and the comfort of thermal water, the secluded but convenient location, try to make a holiday an unforgettable experience. No customers, then, but guests, who participate fully in the life that goes on around the Giardini Ravino, where the botany is runs in the family, already the father of the captain, Antonio D'Ambra, sailor, in turn, collected Crassulae, who used to plant inside of shells hung for decoration of his house. And the children of the captain, Chris and Luca, working at full capacity in the management of the park and the residence, wandering among the flower beds circumscribed by “paraccine”, the traditional dry stone walls of green tuff, singular rock of the island of Ischia, indeed of its west side. From this stony paddock, towering impressive cacti, the real giants, wiry and green, like the giant Carnegiea and Pachycereus pringlei, brought here from Mexico and Arizona. At their feet, many specimens of Echinocactus Grusoni and Ferocactus, as a small population of paunchy elves.
Elsewhere, dense and tall fences of Cereus pachanoi, whose sap, to their original latitudes, contains the powerful hallucinogenic alkaloids, such that the plant is called “Cactus San Pedro”, because it holds the keys to heaven. Nevertheless, this does not happen to our climate and, perhaps the paradise is the award for good deeds; or we have to contemplate it in a garden. The Giardini Ravino, for example, if we are in Ischia.
However, so that is becomes truly a paradise, you have to work in a garden. Because, as suggested by Robert Pogue Harrison, “To the gardener, there is always enough Eden in the land of mortals”. Then, perhaps, it is worth to come here on purpose, in Ischia and the Giardini Ravino. Even in winter. Especially in winter. When the island of Ischia reveals its face of ground. When the ground of Giardini Ravino unravels the mystery behind the summer bloom.


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Info on Ischia island

  • Surface: 46 Kmq
  • Hight: 789 mt
  • Lat.: 40° 44',82 N
  • Long.: 13° 56',58 E
  • Periplus: 18 miglia
  • Coasts: 51.2 Km
  • Cities: 6
  • Inhabitants: 58.029


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