The garden of the convent told by Nicola Mattera

orto castelloWe start from here. With who? Along with Nicola Mattera, ar-chitect. Where. At the Aragonese Castle and its fluorishing heart. Loved. Reanimated. In the midst of the sea. To the northeast. Here, like a stamp pasted to the most beautiful postcard, which for me is the symbolic center of gravity of the Mediterranean civi-lization, I go back in search of history. Here with Nicola’s father, Gabriele, an artist known in the world, I have collected some of the most significant professional experi-ences of my life. And here where I come to soar this book. With his mother, his sister and their families, Nicola is the guardian of the monumental area of the insula mi-nor fortified

for some time under UNESCO lens to be inserted in the World Heritage Site. This is the garden History, the true story of rebirth. I did not ask Nicola an interview, but to write. Here is his story. Unpublished. Precious. Elegant, sincere, sensitive like him. As his “capital letters”. It is the night of December 31 1980, a dull roar and a tremor of the earth shake the walls of the Castle. Only the light of day reveals the unimaginable. The strong west wind has shot down one of the high walls (12 meters high) of the Convent of the Poor Clares that surround what once was certainly a Hortus conclusus: the scenery is surreal, the wall is entirely laid on adjacent lands adapting to different soil heights almost like a huge blanket. This is the image that marked the begin-ning of a rebirth and a new life for the Convent Garden.The rubble removal takes years due to the thickness and height of the wall collapsed, and in this time reaches the idea of finding the garden to the days of yore. Over the years the space bounded by high walls welcomed woods, materials and equipment necessary for the restoration of the Castle and the original destina-tion was obliterated before abandonment (from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century) and then used differently .The work of the land cleaning hit by the collapse opens a different and unique perspective: the Hor-tus is no longer con-clusus but open on land and landscapes that sight the horizon and the main island. The design becomes increasingly evident and it seems as if the Garden reborn spontaneously.The part defined by high walls and cultivated by the nuns of the adjacent convent appears flat and devoid of signs; only a few olive trees protect the altitude jump overlooking the common spaces of the Convent. The reclamation of land of brambles and ruins reveals a small deposit for rainwater collapsed and capped by land and stones. From the discovery of water, from the recovery of this central knot winds over the years the “restoration” of a Garden for years erased but never dead. The farmers restore the ancient cultures almost guid-ed by the spirit of the Place and gradually the Hortus resumes its beauty. But it is a different beauty from the original because it is enriched by a new dimension: on the one hand, in a dominant position, the Garden delimited by the remaining high walls of the Convent; the other part, in subject position, plots of land with all that natural vegetation that characterizes the ridges of the Castle and much of the island of Ischia. Over time, the area beyond the Garden is place for fruit trees and citrus trees: the two sides separated from the wall melt together resulting in a Garden; horticultural size meets the decorative one creating a place of great emotional intensity. But the biggest Beauty of the Orto del Convento is in its ability to rebuild itself over time by placing almost all activities and decisions necessary to regain its original spirit. Spontaneously it avoids herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides in order to find the cures and the nutrients of the past: the work is hard, the rewards may be less attractive but the collection is a rare harmony. And so there are tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, beans, salad, escarole, kale, turnips, broccoli, radishes, garlic, onions, peppers, basil, mint and a little farther on, among bougainvillea, wisteria and jasmine, peach trees and apricots, oranges, lemons and mandarins, olive trees and ancient fig trees. All with the harmonic variety that only nature can create.There is also the vineyard that, in greater height position, overlooking the Garden and the sur-rounding landscape telling with its geometric regularity that behind all this there is also the hand of Man. At the highest point, in the shadow of two cozy olive groves, the view on the Garden is magnificent and the dome of the nearby Church of Immacolata seems almost to be a silent witness of this newfound Beauty.


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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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