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Villa Taranto Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto extend over the Piedmontese shore of Lake Maggiore, covering an area of about 20 hectares on the promontory known as the Castagnola in the municipality of Verbania. They represent one of the most fascinating examples of an English garden that can be visited in Italy. The English garden was born as a reaction to the too severe formalism of the Italian and French garden, and aims to achieve a return to the taste of free nature and the picturesque, imposed with romanticism. A more spontaneous view of plant beauty is preferred and the human contribution is concealed in an attempt to make the sweet landscapes created appear absolutely natural.
The taste of the English garden spreads rapidly also in Italy and so in the region of the lakes and in the Verbano, which for generations have been fashionable resorts and therefore, since always, particularly rich in patrician villas and wonderful gardens. It was on the banks of the Verbano that, with the Gardens of Villa Taranto, one of the most successful transformations of an existing private garden was carried out in a suggestive English park. The origins of the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto date back to 1931 when a Scottish gentleman, Captain Neil Boyd McEacharn, archer of the Queen of England and Academician Linneano, purchased the property called "La Crocetta" by placing an advertisement in the Times the goal of transforming it into one of the world's leading botanical complexes.
Captain McEacharn dedicated much of his life to the gigantic work, investing almost all of his vast personal wealth, and applying his considerable experience in floriculture, already acquired with the creation of the vast park that surrounded his castle at Galloway, in Scotland. The work involved over thirty years of work, and required the participation of over 100 workers.
Compared to the original park, the garden area was almost doubled with the purchase of several neighboring properties. The pre-existing vegetation (consisting almost exclusively of chestnut trees, locust trees and bamboos) was largely eradicated, an efficient water supply system was created, which pumped water directly from the lake distributing it in the garden, through a network of 8 km of pipes, and finally the challenging planimetric settlement of the land was provided. The desire to plant the largest variety of plants possible required the creation of an artificial valley for crops that needed protection from the wind and a shady climate, and the creation of terraced gardens for crops that otherwise required exposure in full sun. Around 7 km of avenues were also placed on the whole area.
But the most difficult and delicate intervention was the botanical repopulation of the gardens for which Captain McEacharn went around the world several times, finding and buying seeds and plants from the five continents, and entered the vast network of international exchanges with Universities and institutes botanists from all over the world. Even today the Botanical Gardens of Villa Taranto have a botanical heritage of extraordinary richness (incredibly survived without excessive consequences in the long and difficult period of the world war during which the Scottish captain was forced to return home) which includes a total of about 20,000 varieties and species of plants of which almost 1000 have never been grown in Italy until recent years. So much botanical richness makes the Gardens of Villa Taranto a fundamental point of reference for botanical enthusiasts from all over the world as well as an attraction of constant interest for the thousands of tourists who visit these gardens in every season.
It is almost impossible to remember all the interesting varieties of plants that are found along the avenues of this rich park and its multiple gardens. A prearranged itinerary allows visitors to cross the most suggestive environments and to discover the most surprising scenarios of the park, at the same time signaling the many rare and precious botanical varieties.
A trip to the visit begins by following the main driveway to the park called the "Viale delle conifere". Among the many varieties of conifers, it is certainly worth mentioning a rare specimen of Picea Spinulosa, a native of the Himalayas, characterized by the coexistence of geotropism and heliotropism, the Scyadopitis verticillata from Japan but whose botanical genealogy is still obscure, and finally one of the first specimens arrived in Europe of Metasequoia Glyptostroboides, a gift from the royal gardens of Kew. The origin of this plant dates back to about 200 million years ago and, until 1944, was known by botanists only in its fossil state. On that date, in a valley of China, some living specimens were found whose seeds allowed the species to be re-propagated.
On the right of the "Viale delle conifere" extends the so-called "Valletta of tree ferns" in which, on a soft sloping green carpet, numerous specimens of the fern family are located. Particularly fascinating are the Dicksonia antarctica, coming from Australia, on whose trunks of variable height between m. 1 and m. 2.50 you can admire the beautiful and unusual pinnate fronds.
At the end of Viale delle Conifera an Italian-style garden develops, divided into flower beds decorated with different flowers depending on the season. In the garden is placed the "Fontana dei Putti" adorned with valuable sculptures and embellished in summer by the vegetation of the gigantic leaves of Colocasia antiquorum pictorially called also "elephant's ears". In the Italian gardens there are many species of roses and tall trees that deserve attention. We certainly remember the elegant Paulownia tomentosa with its evocative spring bloom and the very rare specimens of Prunus campanulata whose abundant and early flowering represents a spectacle of rare beauty.
Continuing on the left, from June to October, you can admire the rich "Garden of Dahlias" with over 300 varieties recently created scenically planted along a specially designed meandering path. Turning to the right the "Viale degli Aceri" leads to the Serra where many varieties of tropical and subtropical plants are cultivated but where it is possible to admire the Victoria Regia, belonging to the Nympheacee family, in its Amazonic varieties (of the Amazon) and cruziana (from Paraguay). In Italy it is possible to admire other specimens only in Palermo where cultivation is certainly facilitated by the warmer climate. The leaves of the Amazon, whose diameter varies between 1 m. and 2 m., are a singular and exciting spectacle if we consider that their strength is such that they could hold the weight of a child. The flower dies within twenty-four hours of birth.
Returning to the main avenue, amidst magnificent bushes of hundreds of species and varieties of Rhododendron (true pride of the gardens), we climb towards the villa leaving behind the Cappella-mausoleo where, by his expressed desire, Captain McEacharn was buried. But before reaching the plateau facing Villa Taranto, a path leads us to the artificially excavated "Valletta", as already mentioned, to offer a home to a variegated variety of rare and delicate plants. Along the two cliffs there will be an uninterrupted succession of plants and shrubs surprising in picturesque settings. Finally you reach the villa which offers the restful vision of a vast and soft lawn.
The villa is currently the seat of the Verbano Cusio Ossola Prefecture and as such is not open to visitors. At the death of Captain McEacharn the administration of the villa was assumed by the Villa Taranto Botanical Gardens “Cap. Neil Mceacharn ”.
Gardens of Villa Taranto: Useful info
Villa Taranto Botanical Gardens, via V. Veneto 111, 28922 Verbania Pallanza (VB) Lake Maggiore - Italy. Tel. And fax 0323556667. Ticket office: 0323404555.
Opening period: From April 1st to October 31st.
Visiting hours: Open every day from 8.30am to 7.30pm (ticket office 6.30pm). The gardens are open from April 1st to October 31st.
Minimum visit duration: From an hour to an hour and a half.
Packed breakfast: allowed only in the BAR area or neighboring area, not possible in case of rain.
Free car parkings - Lago Maggiore Navigation Dock