Saturday, June 30, 2012

Italian Garden Tigullio Gulf Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

I wanted to share more images from my recent visit to the Villa Durazzo after my post about the inside of the building. The gardens surrounding the villa are lovely and trust me, my snapshots do not do it justice.

Here we are in Santa Margherita Ligure in the northwestern Italian coast, overlooking the Tigullio Gulf. Our host, a local boy (and friend), explained during our hike into the hills between his home and the nearby Portofino that the locals actually refer to this gulf as the “Gulf of Idiots,” but using a word that is slang for “idiot” in the dialect from Genoa. The people of Santa Margherita apparently earned this nickname when a whale was found inside the protected part of the gulf. The fishermen thought it was dead and tied it up. Someone later tried to climb on top of it, only to have the whale send a rush of air up through its blowhole. The whale escaped unharmed, but the town cannot live down this story.

Back to the gardens: I spoke with an old man in the garden who told me that some of the palm trees there were about 400 years old and started to show me how to determine the palm’s age. He was really sweet (and I have a thing for old people) and thus, I went back to speak with him again after we left the villa. I also wanted to point out one thing. In the back patio where you see the mosaic of pebbles in white and black, there is a well. It has REAL flowers placed around the top edge of the well and was simply gorgeous! It is so easy to see why people want to get married here. There is a special magic that occurs when mountains meet the sea.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Villa Durazzo Ligure Italy

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

It is a lot of fun to visit a place with a local. I see more than I might have on my own and he might also see something new in his hometown. There really is something to that idea of “I can go here anytime, and thus, I never have.” Such was the case recently on my return visit to Santa Margherita Ligure, on the northwestern coast of Italy. My friends and I went to visit the Villa Durazzo. This amazing place is part of a complex now owned by the city of Santa Margherita Ligure. The nearby Church of San Giacomo is what you are most likely to see almost anywhere you stand in this coastal town as it is quite the landmark, high up, and very visible.

An ancient castle was erected on this site over Roman ruins dating back to 300 A.D. The castle was owned by the Marquis Gianluca Chiavari. His daughter Maria married a Genoese nobleman, Gerolamo Durazzo, in the 1620s. Their eldest son, Gio Luca (1628-1679) inherited the castle from his grandfather, but chose to demolish it and build a new palace in 1678, the year before his death.

This new building, now referred to as Villa Durazzo has seen many renovations over the centuries and now has modern conveniences such as plumbing and central heating. The place is filled with art, from classically painted family portraits to decorative but simple designs, some intended to be three-dimensional. It gives quite the effect. Some of the original wood floors were changed and now show off the talents of mosaic artists. Many of the chandeliers are made of the famous Murano glass [Murano is an island near Venice].

My friends and I saw several pianos in this villa, and two bedrooms. The last image here is from the first bedroom. Note the elaborate carvings in the twin bed boards. I was delighted to see some carved figures in the wooden armoire nearby, since one of them inspires me for a pose of one of the female figures I will create for my summer’s mural commission here in bella Italia. This next painting in the other bedroom, that has a proper matrimonial bed, faces the pillows of the room’s occupants. Can you imagine having this painting of a woman with a sword plunged into her bosom as the last thing you see before you fall asleep? Yow-sah!

Villa Durazzo is open most of the summer and is also rented out for various private events, such as weddings and meetings. Currently a visit will cost an adult 5.50 euros (3.00 for children) for an entrance fee with a printed-out booklet detailing information about each room in the villa, as well as a thorough history of the building itself. Open Hours are (as of this writing) : from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, with admission closing 30 minutes before each closing time.

Villa Durazzo – Piazzale San Giacomo, 3
16038 Santa Margherita Ligure, Italia
Tel. (+39) 0185 293135
E-mail: / Web sito:

This post is dedicated to my Uncle Joe. I miss the Joey of our younger days and hope that he was able to find some beauty in his life.