Monday, September 1, 2014

Exploring a Secret Garden in Venice with Tudy Samartini



Flowers & Fabric at the gardens of the Fortuny Factory and Showroom

On my first visit to Venice, Italy, I had the rare opportunity to tour gardens on the island of Giudecca with Tudy Sammartini, the celebrated historian, landscape designer, and author of The Secret Gardens of Venice and Verdant Venice.  Away from the mobs of tourists, Tudy introduced us to the quite edges of Venice where we discovered a silent natural world of graceful walled-off gardens of the palazzi.


Tudy’s intimate knowledge of Venice inspired a large part of her life as historian, landscape designer, and preservationist of this hidden natural world among the alleyways and canals of this magnificent city built upon water. Exploring these gardens with her really brought to life the special and unique qualities of Venice both past and present.
In Venice, gardens were a rarity owing to the limitations of a city and reflected the prestige of their owners. Although many of these gardens changed owners and form, today they still remain graceful private spaces and quiet refuge from the marvelous theater of Venice. Today many of the gardens still exist and are being restored by Tudy's creative talent and restoration efforts.


One of my favorite gardens we visited with Tudy was at the world famous fabric factory of Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949). This magnificent garden is hidden behind an industrial brick fa├žade of the Fortuny factory.  Fortuny was a celebrated Spanish artist, painter, designer, and stylist. He created innovative dyes, printing and the manufacturing of fabrics.

Fortuny was an innovator of silk and velvet fabrics known for impressions of carved relief. Many of his fabrics reflect an influence of ancient motifs, Morris prints and botanical designs. Fortuny lived in Venice during his last years, and here created an exclusive fabric factory in 1919, which is still in use today. Many of the varieties of plants and flowers in this master garden inspired some of Fortuny’s most innovative and beautiful fabric designs.  
Thanks to the restoration efforts of Tudy, this large historic garden has been beautifully restored, and still inspires design of the Fortuny fabrics created today.
Formal in its geometry and lined with boxwood, romantic elements abound in this grand garden; complete with rose covered arbors, ivy covered brick walls and marble statuary and benches. One would never guess that such a large parcel was hidden behind the factory's facade complete with towering magnolias, ornamental pomegranate trees and a large swimming pool anchoring the rear of the garden. The graceful draping wisteria and grape vine covered arbors softened and offered a balance to the hard geometry of the sculpted  boxwoods and the brick walls of the factory. After our tour of the garden, we were invited into the exclusive showroom to see the rich and sumptuous fabrics that are still produced and inspired by this wonderful garden today.
Visits to the factory are not permitted in order to maintain the secrets of production but the showroom and garden are accessible by appointment only or with Tudy Sanmartini who has been an official guide in Venice since1969. Tudy has become quite a celebrity in luxury travel articles which feature her many gardens and work. My family and I were lucky to meet her and over a wonderful lunch with a view of St. Mark Tower across the water became friends. I look forward to working with Tudy on a future restoration project in this magnificent city sometime soon!

Tudy Sammartini with my boys and me posing togetherunder a grape arbor