The villa lives and breathes because of the people and animals who are drawn to it. At its heart there is Mariella, the owner, and Claudio, the gardener. There is also a recalcitrant cat, who, on a good day, will supervise activity, and on a bad day will occupy herself hunting rodents and lizards.
Together they weave the magic that holds this ancient land together. This is not a laundered garden, it exists and flourishes alongside nature. After the long dry summer the rain has meant that the plants are beginning to find their way back to life, as are the weeds.
It is the nature of artists to continue to work up to the wire. I am no exception, so even though the watercolours and oil paintings are complete, I keep on drawing. Just one more, the voice in my head keeps saying.
Today is one of those days, back I come. The metal gates groan open, powered by an unseen hand that presses the ancient electrical system into action. My entrance is always the same, the car is abandoned to the undergrowth alongside the barns, then I walk through the barchase until I am in the garden. The choice of where to sit is made and I set up my paper and paints on one of the many garden tables scattered across the gravel. Mariella and Claudio are digging, replacing roses and cutting back weeds all the while talking.
Italians love to talk and bicker and plan. The rhythmic rise and fall of their voices drifts through the mellow air. Despite my Italian still being very poor, I never feel alone at moments like this. I can listen and slowly I have learnt to grasp a small idea as to the nature of sentences. Claudio’s language is the simpler, it seems that my ear is better tuned to local dialect than the formal Italian that Mariella speaks. The cat, who sits by my feet, a second member of the audience looks up at me with a slight air of condescension. Her eyes seem to ask “You mean you don’t understand? How foolish.”
There are busy days, the Gardinity marks the end of summer. For a moment the house will fill with the sound of Italian voices and laughter. There will be children, good food and wine. Upstairs there will be ball gowns, hand printed silk and my paintings. For the moment however there is just the four of us watching the leaves turn to gold and red.
Linda Winter, Sunday 25 September 2022