So this is what lies in a calle behind the Redentore Church. A small nameplate with a big history. A locked gate, a doorbell that no one answers, a crumbling palazzo, a garden wilderness that at 6 acres is the largest private garden in Venice. And only one or two people have been in there since the owner died in 2000. All the more fascinating when you find out that that person was the internationally renowned artist Friedenreich Hundertwasser. I’ve been an admirer of his ever since I went to his 1975 exhibition at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, where humus toilets were displayed alongside paintings and architectural plans for ecological buildings with turf roofs. And later I heard rumours that he had some sort of hideaway on the Guidecca island in Venice. But the details of this only surfaced when a friend who was house sitting while I was in Venice a year or so ago left me a book she thought might interest me: it was called ‘A Garden in Venice’ A disappointingly drab book, it nevertheless has a fascinating account by the editor Frances Lincoln of the history of this very garden, the links with Anthony Eden’s great uncle and Gertrude Jekyll’s sister Caroline; Jean Cocteau and a fatal shooting on the steps of Salute; a Queen of Yugoslavia, and last not least, Hundertwasser. It’s worth listening to a BBC programme made by Professor Janet Todd in 2003 called ‘Requiem for a Garden of Eden’ . The book can be perused online.
But back to the present. This is what I found when I left the Redentore crowds that beautiful Sunday in July.
I had thought I might go back there, might leave a note in the letterbox, ring the bell, talk to the neighbours (somebody is watering those geraniums on the loggia), write to the Hundertwasser foundation in Vienna. I didn’t, but I still might. For now, I am leaving this blog and this dream, and just in case you want more, I can recommend two excellent Venice blogs, written by people actually living there, full of interest and detail. Oddly enough, the daily photo for today in the Venice Daily Photo blog is Secret Garden…click on the links below