Tuesday, August 05, 2008

TUSCANY - Lucchesia: A garden in Lucca

Villa Massei – the gate and the cypress viale. This is the short “story” of an enchanting garden near Lucca. This gate leads you into the magical world of Paul Gervais de Bedee and Gil Cohen and the garden they created. They planted the cypress viale only ten years ago and it already looks historic. In the spring, pink Pimberton roses peek out through the trees.

Villa Massei – the aperitivo and the guests. The garden is also a great venue for entertaining. In the photograph, at dusk, the men gather for an aperitivo, as the ladies tour the garden before dinner. “I used to see mostly people in the arts, but now we’re happy to see anybody nice and well mannered, especially if they have style and entertain.” Paul explains about the guest list.

Villa Massei - the table setting. The stunning backdrop of the 16th century grotto is the ideal location for one of the four tables set for eight under the old camphor tree. Heirloom apples from a tree by the henhouse are casually placed among miniature lanterns. The falling water from the grotto provides the only music. “We have two or three parties of thirty in the summer, and in the winter we have small dinner parties in the dining room for twelve.” Paul explains.

Villa Massei - a detail. A detail of the table setting by candlelight. Guests reserve their places for a simple buffet dinner of seasonal food from the garden. The diamond-studded purse belongs to interior decorator, Daniela Leusch.

Photograph by Manfredi Bellati
Villa Massei – The Orange Garden. The Orange Garden was born as a herb garden but took on refinement in time.

Villa Massei – the garden designer, author and host. Paul Gervais de Bedee, is a thirteenth generation New Englander, he is descended from the family of Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand. He is also the author of two books on the Villa Massei garden, both entitled “A Garden in Lucca”, one of which is a picture book published by Idea Books in Italian, an English version of which, is due out next year. And, last but not least, he has a lot of style and designs the most beautiful gardens. Paul spends “A time” with Olive, one of two Siamese cats in the villa’s antique loggia.

Villa Massei – the terra cotta pots. A watercolor of one of the terra cotta pots designed by Paul. This one is called Pittosporum and is inspired by Bauhaus classic modernism. The flower pots are entirely hand made of Impruneta clay and will be available in 90, 70 and 50 cm sizes from the well known garden designers’ website: www.paulgervais.com in October.

Villa Massei – a detail. A close up of the sketch that shows how the pot will look when it has a ball shaped topiary inside it. The numbers at the top refer to the scale of the vase.

Villa Massei – the pussycat. Olive, seated in a lemon pot, watches the guests arrive. She is the more present, of Paul and Gil’s two cats; her sister Tea is a great huntress who’s often off stalking the creatures of the fields.

Villa Massei – The stone bench. The stone bench in the Dolphin Court was fashioned with fragments of an old demolished balustrade found in the garden when Paul and Gil bought the villa.

Villa Massei – another bench. This tiny bench of found stone fragments makes a destination at Al Pastore, the guesthouse at Villa Massei, which is available for rent by the week.

Villa Massei – a naturalistic staircase. The guesthouse, Al Pastore, is reached via a naturalistic staircase that passes through a collection of rare Mediterranean plants, such as sarcopoterium spinosum, found on the island of Patmos.

Villa Massei – the rose lover and his rose bush. Gil Cohen stands in front of an Eden rose bush. This rose bush is a "tongue-in-cheek" joke between him and Paul, that only the most sophisticated gardeners could understand. Eden rose, is one of the few modern roses Gil has allowed in the garden. Gil is a philanthropist and esthete and is from a prominent family of Boston real estate developers, distinguished for their inroads in the creation of shopping centers. He is known in Lucca for his work at the Liceo Classico, where he volunteers as a native English speaker. Both Gil and Paul graduated in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute, where they met in the early 1970s.

Photograph by Manfredi Bellati
Villa Massei – the Memorial Fountain. The Memorial Fountain is dedicated to Gil’s father who passed away when the garden was nearing completion. The colonnade is built of hand-made terra cotta bricks.

Photograph by Manfredi Bellati
Villa Massei – the old garden. The Old Garden was the hardest to work with as it was anything but a clean slate with its three hundred year old cypress trees.” Paul explains.
Note: the different shapes of topiary in the foreground.
Contessanally tip: click on the photograph to get a better view.
Pin It