September 03, 2010

Caserta Gardens

The destination of one of my last day trips from Naples was the Caserta Palace, the Reggia di Caserta. But this time I wasn't there to see the palace itself: I was only interested in the gardens. I had been daydreaming of returning to the magnificent, orderly, geometrically designed Italian-style garden with its opulent statues, as well as the meandering English garden planned by Maria Carolina of Austria, wife of Ferdinand IV.

And I was in the mood for black and white photography, which may be counter-intuitive for photographing a garden. But I went with it.

I intended to spend some time photographing the statues in the Italian Garden. This is my all-time favorite.

But to my surprise, a number of the statues were undergoing restoration. They were wrapped in a protective layer of plastic, held in place by red and white tape.

It wasn't at all what I expected, but I was thrilled. Photographed in black and white, the statues seemed to be part of a dreamy fantasy.

After having photographed the veiled statues to my heart's content, I entered the English Garden.

Overgrown and always a little mysterious, the English Garden beckons the visitor to explore its hidden corners. This gate leads to an area where a defunct water cistern was converted to a place for beehives.

Although the gate was locked, I snapped this photo through its bars. It looks like the bees lived in style!

Other parts of the English garden include a waterfall, a stream, a lily pond, and a grotto... where Venus happens to be bathing.

And how about caved-in coffered ceilings... crumbling ancient Roman hallways...

sprinkled with statues and lined with peeling paint?
The English Garden has it all.

Except that these ancient Roman ruins are closer to 200 than 2,000 years old. They are a whimsical aspect of the gardens, as false as the rest of its seemingly au naturel look. Every square inch of the garden is planned out, and every plant and decorative element has a purpose. And that includes these faux Roman ruins from the 18th century, which were highly fashionable among the wealthy at a time when the ruins of Pompeii were just coming to light.

I had been taking photos of the water lilies when the sun came out from behind a cloud and was, by chance, in just right right spot. When the camera was positioned at a certain angle, with the sunlight reflected on the surface of the murky water without the sun itself being in the picture, the water appeared smooth, silky, almost metallic.

In The Metamorphoses, Ovid describes the waters of the fountain in which Narcissus sees his own reflection as "nitidis argenteus undis," gleaming silver waves. But I wouldn't have believed that water could look like this!

The Italian and English Gardens both surprised me with their hidden, unexpected beauty.

If you're in the area, a visit to the Caserta Palace and Gardens is a must. È bellissimo!

1 comment:

  1. Another absolutely wonderful series of photographs and writing!!!!

    The wrapped statues are so interesting in b/w.

    I so agree with your description of that "very strange liquid"..nicely done!