Andorno, Italy and Its Landscape as Described by Edith Wharton

December 1, 2012

Billowy azaleas, credit: CarlisleFlowers

Billowy azaleas, credit: CarlisleFlowers

Edith Wharton was a writer in the late 1900s into the first third of the 20th Century. The biographer, R.W.B. Lewis writes in his book, Edith Wharton A Biography that Ms. Wharton scoured the Italian countryside to study and write about its beauty and to document its many villa gardens.  Mr. Lewis refers to an article Ms. Wharton wrote for the Century Magazine called, “The Sanctuaries of the Pennine Alps,”  about Andorno’s landscape in the Italian Piedmont.  “Wildflowers of spring and summer seem to meet: narcissus and forget-me-knot lingering in the grass, while yellow broom – Leopardi’s lover of sad solitudes – sheets the dry banks with gold, and higher up, in the folds of the hills, patches of crimson azaleas mix their shy scent with the heavy fragrance of the acacia.”

Horticultural knowledge is not necessary here.  The reader’s eye is taken on a visual tour from valley to the hills, violets, gold, crimson and green.  Perhaps the reader could imagine the shapes of the plants, small in the meadow, sticks on the hills, billows and trees scattered on the top.  Would one know the reference to Leopardi’s lover of sad solitudes? One of Italy’s most famous poets, Giacomo Leopardi,  Edith Wharton references his poem, “Canti” in her description of the Italian landscape,

“let those who

praise our existence visit

these slopes, to see how carefully

our race is nurtured

by loving Nature. “

Narcissus of unknown origin, credit: CarlisleFlowers

Narcissus of unknown origin, credit: CarlisleFlowers


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