Villa della Pergola: an experience through history and nature
In Alassio, a town in Liguria, the park of Villa della Pergola overlooks the sea and the spectacular panorama of the coast. Its origins date back to the late 19th century, but it was landscape architect Paolo Pejrone who restored the gardens in 2006, and today, thanks to his work, the area's 22,000 square metres have returned to their former glory.
In keeping with the Anglo-Mediterranean style, the historical species were recovered and, the botanical catalogue was further enriched, so that the park now boasts a number of firsts: with its 34 varieties, the wisteria collection is the largest in Italy, while the 500 species of agapanthus make up the richest in Europe.
The villa, surrounded by gardens, houses an exclusive hotel, a charming relais that preserves the atmosphere of yesteryear. Memories go back to the past, when English nobility moved to this historic residence, attracted by the mild climate and beauty of the region. The 15 suites evoke turn-of-the-century sophistication in antique furnishings, in Victorian and Edwardian paintings. The Michelin-rated restaurant completes the experience.
An explosion of colours to the rhythm of the seasons
Hydrangeas, oleanders, bougainvillea, jasmine and old roses. Strolling through the park of Villa della Pergola is like entering a botanical garden, always offering new surprises to the rhythm of the seasons. A living and vital environment, therefore, changeable, with an intriguing dynamism.
If you are of a romantic disposition, April is the perfect month, because you will find wisteria in their heyday, with the clusters in fresh bloom. The spectacle is such that the English nobility, in the 20th century, liked to organise for the occasion the 'Wisteria Festival', an event of wide appeal for the elite. A feast for the eyes, now within every visitor’s reach.
In May, roses and lavender flourish and a sweet aroma wafts through the air. If it is the shades of blue and azure that you love, then the right time is between June and late July: the first flowers of the agapanthus make waves, similar to those of the sea. Instead, lantanas and hibiscus wait until the end of summer to fill themselves with colourful flowers.
Not lacking a touch of exoticism
Alongside Mediterranean vegetation, including maritime pines, olive trees and myrtle, the Villa della Pergola park also boasts exotic species, including some rare specimens. For experts and lovers of botany it is a further point of interest, for tourists a pleasant discovery, an imaginary journey to distant lands, straight from this corner of the Ligurian Riviera.
Various types of water lilies can be seen in the ponds dotting the garden, including the Blue Water Lily, which recalls the myths of ancient Egypt. The water basin holds a riot of lotuses and thoughts run to the Far East, to the ornamental ponds in the temples of China and Japan. An entire room is dedicated to tropical plants. Various species of palm trees, from all corners of the globe, from the Canary Islands to Asia and Central America, predominate, as well as imposing bamboos, which reach eight metres in height. An absolute rarity is the Wollemia Nobilis, a prehistoric conifer of Australian origin, known from fossils and yet here it is alive and well: it is one of only a hundred specimens worldwide.
The exoticism also extends to the fine collection of citrus fruits. Alongside the local varieties (the most notable being the famous Chinotto di Savona, a Slow Food Presidium) appears the Buddha's Hand Cedar. The name of oriental origin refers to the curious shape of the fruit: not spherical, but jagged and divided into several independent sections, resembling a hand with many fingers. The citrus fruit Murraya Paniculata, the smallest in nature, is also worth a look; the Indians use the leaves to create curry, their country's national dish.
A stellar gastronomic break is also possible
A relaxing stay in the sophisticated suites of the historic house, an exploration of the park and finally the dining experience. Villa della Pergola is home to the Michelin-starred Restaurant Nove, with tables overlooking the sea, some outdoors. The garden bursts onto the plate with its aromatic herbs, vegetables and citrus fruits, aromas that enhance a modern cuisine strongly rooted in the land, with French influences. There is all the richness of Liguria in the dishes that use local ingredients: spiny artichokes, Taggiasche olives, Oneglia scampi, anchovies... The tasting menus, dedicated to the vegetable garden and the region, are highly recommended.