For the first time in history, Villa Barberini, a section of the 136 acre papal owned property, is open to the public. Built in the first century AD, the Villa was originally owned by Emperor Domitian and transferred to the Pope in 1596 after the owner at the time declared bankruptcy. Lucky for us, Pius XI renovated the gardens to restore them to their former glory. Now days, Pope Francis is too busy doing good to take R&R at the residence so he lets people visit. And we did!
Initial Observation: WOAHHHHHHHH!! THIS IS AWESOME!!
Secondary Observation: Every single plant in this garden is thriving and flawless.
When I asked HORT major Amelia how everything in the garden could be so healthy and perfect, her reply was succinct "The Mediterranean is magic." There are so many types of flowers that do well in Italy because of the climate, which has a lot to do with the diverse landscapes of Italy. There are a lot of variations in altitude, geology, location in respect to bodies of water, and other variables that create microclimates that allow for so many different types of plants to thrive.
Most of Italy has a Hot-Summer Mediterranean Climate (Köppen Classification: CSA). This means the summers are hot, warm if you are from Texas, and the winters are cool. Most of the rainfall is during the winters, except the one year that we visit, and summer rainfall is usually just the occasional thunderstorm. The soil is extremely fertile and plants love to live here. And for the record, so would I.
So going back to what Amelia said, I think its true. The Mediterranean is magic. The plants are beautiful, the landscapes are breathtaking, the food is amazing, the water is crystalline, and the people that you meet while exploring this incredible place are pretty incredible themselves.