Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Beautiful Vatican Gardens

The importance of shade to Italians
According to our tour guide, non-diplomatic Rome has no such thing as VIPs, but I definitely felt Very Important when our Horticulture class privately toured the Vatican gardens. We began our adventure by meeting our tour guide, Isabella, inside of the building outside of the gardens. Courtney and I took her name as a great sign, as we had been searching for semblances of the Lizzie McGuire Movie in Rome since we had first arrived. It was the perfect start.
Pebbles used in mosaic work
Throughout our trek in the gardens, Isabella pointed out many of the historical and interesting Catholic monuments and memorials that were scattered throughout the property. As we passed through a shady pathway to one of the first sections of the garden, Isabella explained the significance of the walkway. She referred to the lack of flowers in Italian gardens, and told our class that because of the heat in Italy, shade was much more precious and appreciated than floral landscaping. In the baking heat as we walked, I have to say that I wholeheartedly agreed with the Italian need for shade. After we meandered through the shady pathway, we came across an entrance to a private courtyard area. We discussed the mosaic on the outside arch of the closed courtyard, and Isabella noted that the components of the tile work were stones and pebbles from nearby Roman rivers and streams—local treasures. It gave a rustic look to the beautiful designs of the structure when one looked up close.
New olive trees
An English garden with
Asian Jasmine Arches
An old olive tree
from the Holy Land
One of the many fountains
in the Vatican gardens
            Further into the Vatican Gardens, we came across many fountains and pools, which showed the importance of water to the Romans—a resource even more precious than shade in gardens and landscaping. It was fun to identify familiar plants throughout our tour, as well as to learn about new ones that grew in the Vatican Gardens from all over the world. I saw gorgeous hydrangeas growing beside a building: a sight that I have never seen at home in Texas! I enjoyed identifying the styles of various gardens that we walked near, such as Italian gardens (that included nontraditional flowers) and English gardens. It was interesting to find the priceless, old olive trees that had been collected from places like the Holy Land—a symbol of piece and brotherhood for the Mediterranean. We also came across many new olive trees, which produce a different flavor of oil and grow in a different section of the Vatican gardens.
Some familiar Texas plants in the Vatican
Plants used as a barrier
One of my favorite things about the Vatican Gardens was seeing many plants that are commonly grown in Texas, many of which were gifts from various places in America. I saw many cacti, bougainvillea vines, and Asian Jasmine flourishing, and Isabella explained that some forms of cacti are used as barriers to keep visitors out of certain areas. It was both serene and lavish to be able to see the gardens in the Vatican City. I greatly enjoyed hearing about the history and significance of many plants, and felt incredibly privileged to be able to tour the Vatican Gardens. 

An Italian garden with added flowers
Molly Mitchell

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