Alas and alack, I’m not ambling through an Italian garden – discovering cherub-like statues with ivy gently cascading into tangles of green – but oh, I am dreaming of it!
As February sets in and the cold lingers, I’m conjuring walks through lush lemon orchards, along jasmine and rose-scented pathways, past fountains erupting in joyful exuberance.
Indeed one of my favourite countries seems to be calling and in particular, the gardens of Italy. It’s certainly dangerous, watching a series about the grand gardens as one refinishes an Italian piece of furniture!
I spotted the antique just after New Years. A few of the ‘kids’ and I were wandering through a second-hand shop. Its three floors are a mass of stuff – from treasures of the past decades, to the discarded and the junky, to the eclectic and potentially valuable.
The small round coffee table was perched on top of two other tables, stacked in the inner sanctum of jumbled furniture. It called to me like bells pealing from a campanile. Squeezing through the maze, my son lifted the feather-light table down for me, and I knew that my instinct had been right. It wasn’t any ordinary table. Its top was inlaid with leather, its edge lined with a delicate embossing of gold florals.
“I’ve seen these often in Italy,” I mused excitedly as I examined the table. Its light wood was layered with peeling varnish, its crinkling leather parched and desperate for some care. “I must restore this, let’s see how much it is?”
When I was told it was only 30 dollars, a mere bagatelle, it was soon placed in the back of the car… along with a large blown-glass Italian demijohn. These iconic wine flagons have long beckoned to me… they’re just a little too cumbersome to lug home on a plane!
So yesterday was the day I finally managed to begin my ‘Little Bella’ project. Settled up in my loft, the sanding began. Layers of varnish slowly stripped away, taking layers of memories along with them. Did Bella make her way from Italy with a family embarking on a new life in Canada? Perhaps the demijohn close by, gleaming its translucent soft-green, was also part of the family’s trousseau to the new country?
The hours slipped away peacefully as I worked, and watched a series about Italy’s evocative gardens. I took notes on the Medici’s emphatic statement of power rendered through glorious gardens, all part of the enlightenment and romance of the Renaissance. I marvelled at the gardens designed by cardinals near Rome… so structured and lavish, all intended to project power and win the papacy. And oh, by the time the host, Monty Don, came to amble through the lemon-infused gardens near Sorrento, it was if I was truly transplanted to the gardens of the south which are allowed to ‘roam free, be bold, be flamboyant.’
Allora, my own small project isn’t necessarily bold, but restoring Bella to her once beautiful self, is an expression of freedom and joy just the same. And a reminder, it’s time to start planning that next trip to Italia…