Best to begin by watching the eight minute film screened in the bright cafe at the entrance.
You learn that these Grade 1 listed Edwardian gardens, filled in in the 1940s, remained lost, even in local memory, until 2000 when a new owner began excavating.
Then wander through the gardens, finding lakes, fountains, a bog garden, horticultural surprises at every turn, even a croquet lawn. Most amazing are the subterranean grottoes, ferny and mossy, with tiny streams and little niches.
Though smaller in scale, these gardens have everything offered by historical garden sites. The plant sale is good, parking is free, the welcome is great. What more could you ask?
With the help of John Willis, Tim Smit discovered this idiosyncratic English landscaped garden long before he started the Eden Project. Although restorations and discoveries are still being made, it took me two days to see it all. More like an adventure playground for garden lovers, the 200 year-old site includes a boardwalk through a jungle, an enormous wilderness (look out for figures made from plants and rocks like the Giant’s Head and Grey Lady), a pineapple pit, lakes and formal gardens. I stumbled across some charcoal making, and other events include regular bee walks and bug sweeping.
Pentewan, St.Austell, Cornwall PL26 6EN
Google map: bit.ly/Nv93SJ
Open all year (except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
Main Season (1st April to 30th September) 10.00am – 6.00pm
Winter (1st October to 31st March) 10:00am – 5:00pm
Adults -- £10
Seniors -- £9
Children from 5 to 16 -- £6
Childen under five go free
Family ticket (2 adults + 3 children) -- £27
For the first time in history, 100 documents have been moved from the Vatican’s Secret Archives and are on display in Rome’s Capitoline Museums until September 12, 2012. Titled “Lux in Arcana” this unprecedented display includes artifacts and manuscripts dating back to the 8th Century. Henry VIII fans will be interested in a letter with official seals dangling pleading for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. A 197-feet-long parchment scroll is hung like a large roll of paper towels and partially unrolled to reveal about 20 feet of the trial of the Knights Templer in Paris from 1309 to 1311. One of the more surprising documents is a small birch bark letter written in 1887 by the Ojibwe tribe of Ontario, to Pope Leo XIII thanking him for sending them a bishop. The letter addresses the pope as “The Great Master of Prayer.” Contender for the scroll with the greatest affixation of seals – so many they look like a beat-up doormat – is a 1654 document from the Swedish Council approving the abdication of Queen Christina, who converted to Catholicism and moved to Rome. The papal bull excommunicating Martin Luther, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, the institution of the Julian Calendar, the trials of Galileo and Guido Bruno, and a letter from priests imprisoned in a Nazi death camp are among the wide range of writings demonstrating the intersection of history and the church around the world for more than a millennium. The 12 euro entrance fee also allows entrance into the Capitoline Museums, Rome’s most complete collection of art and artifacts.
The gardens of Chatsworth House must be ranked among the most magnificent in Britain. It's worth a visit just to see the water features (though there is much more): the Cascade has been voted the best water feature in any garden in Britain; the Emperor Fountain was the highest in the world when it was constructed; on a smaller scale, the Willow Tree Fountain can't fail to amuse (it reputedly amused the young Princess Victoria). There is a choice of free, downloadable guides or you can join a guided tour.
You can't beat a garden and tea room combo to blow away the cobwebs at any time of year and Mount Stewart House in Co. Down delivers. From semi-formal Spanish and Italianate gardens, and the funky shamrock garden and dodo terrace to 80 gloriously rambling acres of secluded woodland with romantic neo-classical monuments and the chance to see red squirrels, plus seals and nesting sea birds on nearby Strangford Lough. And the tearoom? They make their own brand icecream, a well earned treat after all that healthy fresh air and walking.
A unique and exquisite 17th century Dutch water garden whose canals and ponds full of water lilies and lawns bordered by attractive topiary are best seen from the first floor of the summer house at the far end. A walk around takes you to a variety of herb and vegetable plots and a stunning display of very old espaliers. There are no cafe facilities on site but picnics on the lawns are encouraged.
In the 90s I used to walk Yogi, a joyful Bouvier des Flandres, in these gardens every day. Yogi has long gone, but the gardens are in better shape than ever after a £12.1m facelift courtesy of National Lottery funding. An artificial lake, classic bridge, cascade of waterfalls and even an Inigo Jones gateway are just some of the treasures hidden among the specimen trees and latticework of pathways in this early example of English landscape gardening. Dogs still roam free in the wild woods and fields, but must be leashed in the more formal areas.
This south London park, its landscaped gardens formerly part of the Kelsey Estate, has been kept secret by the locals for the past 99 years. It has been our family favourite since Grandma pushed Mum around in her pram before the Second World War. When I was a little girl, Mum and I fed the ducks together every Sunday. As Kelsey Park heads towards its centenary, and since I have no daughter of my own to pass it on to, the time has come to share Beckenham's hidden treasure with the rest of the world. I hope Grandma isn't turning in her grave.
"... Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as ... Parklife!" Blur, 1994
If you’re looking for a truly Canadian museum experience, check out the Museum of Inuit Art. Canada’s only public museum located south of the Arctic, it is devoted to preserving and displaying Inuit art from across Canada. The exhibition space features hundreds of works, ranging from sculptures to ceramics, prints and wall hangings, dating back from 1,000 years ago to the present day.
Give yourself about 90 minutes to visit the entire museum and gallery, which sells original works created by contemporary Inuit artists as well as handicraft jewelry and books on Inuit art. The gallery acquires all of its pieces from various Inuit co-operatives representing artists working in Northern Canada and all proceeds from the art sale further supports the work of these artists and their communities.
Open 7 days a week from 10 AM until 6 PM, the museum has very low admission rates -- $3 CDN for adults and $1.50 CDN for seniors and students.
The museum also hosts a Collectors’ Night every Friday night, from 7 PM until 9 PM. Purchase tickets for $10 CDN at the door and this will get you a private tour of the museum followed by a talk about how to select Inuit art. Wine and hors d’oeuvres are served as well.
207 Queen’s Quay West, Queen’s Quay Terminal, Toronto, Canada
+1 416 640 1571
Google map: bit.ly/PIpMzR
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
Amid the hype about Puglia as the "new Tuscany", thanks to Ryanair flights to Bari and Brindisi, Manduria is a typical Pugliese town off the tourist trail through the likes of Alborobello and Ostuni, but within easy distance of both, and also Lecce, the "Florence of the South". A typical Pugliese town, it offers classical history in the shape of the "Fonte Plinano", a well mentioned by Pliny the Elder, archaeological sites highlighting this part of Italy's Grecian influences, a Romanesque cathedral, an old town and ancient Jewish Ghetto unpolished by tourist-traps, but welcoming to the visitor, and wonderful local cuisine in the shape of the typical dish of "Orichette Rape" (ear-shaped pasta with broccoli) and "Primitivo di Manduria", rustic red wine. Only 10km away is the Ionian coast. A worthwhile trip off Puglia's beaten track.
Trulli are typical of the region, circular limestone buildings with a conical roof, each slightly different, kind of resembling a Moor's turban from an Aladdin film. They are dotted around the area, and come in different levels from basic to luxury. Rent one near Ostuni (The White City), only about 10km from the crystal Adriatic, visit different villages for dinner every night from Locorotondo (great outdoor club called Mavu) to a meat feast at Ceglie Messapica, or passegiata at Martina Franca. But maybe best of all is to go to the market in the morning to buy fresh Buratta, Altamura bread, Primitivo wine and orechiette. I'm dreaming again ...
I thoroughly recommend picking one of the small, whitewashed hill-top towns in the beautiful Valle d'Itria area of Puglia as an exploration base. I happened to pick Ceglie Messapica which is known for its excellent regional cuisine. It is less expensive than the better known towns, such as Ostuni or Alberobello but close enough to explore a range of places like Martina Franca, Cisternino, Locorotondo, Ostuni and Alberobello, as well as the lovely and sandy Torre Canne beach. A car is essential and driving through ancient olive groves with dark red earth dotted with trulli is an absolute pleasure - but make sure you have a satnav!
About 40 min. drive from Brindisi airport.
Google map: bit.ly/TgM6Fe
Situated overlooking Coniston Water, Brantwood House was the home of John Ruskin for the last 20 years of his life. The gardens are set into the hillside, and give an insight into the mind of this great Victorian polymath. There are eight themed gardens, some radical (Dante's Purgitorial Mount), some medicinal, others dedicated to ferns (over 250). Having spent a few hours wandering around the gardens, (and house) you'll get an appreciation into the troubled mind of Ruskin.
The jewel in the crown of Puglia is Salento and there are plenty of free things to do. Try the local festivals – my favourites include the snail festival in Cannole, where you can try a plateful of snails as the locals like them – roasted then eaten with salt and cucumber; 'La Notte della Taranta' is a huge free mid-summer traditional musical festival in Melpignano; and if you're around at Easter, try to see Taranto’s Lenten procession, in which penitents wearing very creepy pointed hoods walk barefoot and painfully slowly through the town. The landscape is beautiful – for some of the best, visit ‘the Maldives of Salento’, aka Torre San Giovanni, with perfect white sandy beaches; go to see the ‘caretta-caretta’ (sea turtles) at the Le Cesine nature reserve; and try dolphin spotting in the gulf of Taranto. Finally – some of the most amazing churches: the Cathedral of Otranto has the exquisite ‘Tree of Life’ floor mosaic, said to have inspired Dante’s Divina Commedia, and an alter piece made of the skulls and bones of 800 martyrs slaughtered by Ottoman invaders. In Galatina, you’ll find the beautiful frescoed church of Santa Caterina, which I have a particular affection for, because I got married there …
The best way to reach each of these sites is by car, although Taranto, Otranto and Galatina are also accessible by rail.
Walking through the historical centre of Lecce is a unique experience. The central square 'Piazza Sant 'Oronzo' is on a Roman amphitheatre, part of which is still uncovered and visible from the piazza. Within walking distance from here can be found the Chiesa Santa Croce: one of the most beautiful examples of southern baroque buildings, with its picturesque pattern of statues on limestone. A few yards away again it opens up the breathtaking monumental Piazza Duomo: a sequence of building creating a theatre-like space formed by the cathedral, the Bishop's Palace and the bell tower. Walking on the piazza you cannot help but feel you are entering one of the most beautiful corners of the Italian architectural landscape.
Santa Maria al Bagno is a beautiful little town on the Ionian coast. The sea front is compact and low key, fronted by old Italian town houses which double as waterfront cafés. Here you can pick up a gelato or an Africano (espresso with Disaronno, fizzy water and ice) for the tiny but perfectly formed beach. The beach gets busy, especially at weekends, but is a fantastic spot for people watching as the crowds are an eclectic mix of bronzed locals.
I’d recommend spending the afternoon swimming in the crystal clear sea and as the sun begins to set head south a few miles down the coastal road towards Lido Conchiglie to one of the fish restaurants (one is called La Maruzella). These restaurant sit right on the water's edge and you can watch the sun disappear into the sea while enjoying their wide range of basic but delicious and incredibly fresh fish dishes (sometimes you can watch the fisherman arrive at the restaurant’s jetty with their catch and see it on your plate 30 minutes later). Bring a phrase book!
Via Cristoforo Colombo (lido conchiglie), Sannicola,
Google map: bit.ly/MsTqIW
Whatever your itinerary in Puglia will be, don’t miss out this town. It is a real gem cast on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic sea. You can have a cheap and delicious ice cream at Il Super Mago del Gelo topped up with coffee whipped cream and hazelnuts praline or a pricey and succulent dinner at Donna Gina listening to the waves crushing on the bay. Now that you have satisfied your appetite head into the old town and reach one of the terraces while reading about the poetry of 'Guido il Flaneur' painted on the old houses’ walls, because this must be the place.
A visit to Old Gallipoli, perched above the glittering Ionian Sea on the Salento peninsula will not disappoint. The unpropitious approach, across the dusty plains of southern Puglia and through the slightly sprawling newer suburbs, leads you across a narrow causeway to the island-like Old Town. Climb up the steps and take a circular walk along the ‘riverias’ that surround the town, looking out to sea or down to the sandy beaches backed by the distinctive 'ombrellone' pines and boats in the harbour. For cool respite from the heat descend to the museum of the Frantoio Ipogeo, one of many olive oil presses set in the rock below the streets. The Puglia region is reportedly Italy’s largest producer of olive oil and if you have only ever seen the olive trees of northern Italy or Tuscany you will be bowled over by the magnificence of the Pugliese olive groves. Olive oil from Puglia was shipped all over Europe from Gallipoli as lamp fuel, long before it became the culinary ‘must have’ that we know today. Potter around the quirky Museo Civico with its displays of artefacts and shark bones. And don’t miss the superlative ‘Granite Limone’ from the cafe in the Piazza del Duomo.
Come see the locals dancing the tango in the town square of this beautiful hill top village and if you are feeling hungry visit La Taverna del Duca for excellent rustic Puglian food and wine. Bellissimo!
Via Papatotero, 3, 70010 Locorotondo, Italy
The best place to base yourself in Puglia is a trulli and I think you would be hard pushed to find one more idyllic than Trulli Stella. It's a little off the beaten track and surrounded by farmland, olive groves and locals escaping (from nearby Ceglie) to the country for the weekend. More importantly it has it's own fully equipped outside kitchen and pizza oven and if you like, Maria, the trulli's manager, will visit with her mother, and cook you an amazing meal with enough food to last you for the entire week using ingredients from the garden and the local market.
When you can bring yourself to leave the tranquility of the trulli you are truly spoilt for choice as to where you head. There's the market cafe at Locorotondo where you can pop in for a sweet cake and deliciously strong espresso, before heading into the market to buy more ingredients for cooking those long leisurely lunches in your trulli. You can join the locals doing their morning shopping in nearby St Michele, but be aware you need to be assertive in the bakery queue if you don't want all the good bread to be sold before you get your turn.
A trip to the coast is essential and Villanova di Ostuni has some of the best local beaches: crystal clear waters, acres of white sand and a sweet marina where you can choose between a glass of icy cold rose at the local bar or a gelato on the other side of the square.
The white washed, hill top town of Cisternino is not to be missed; head to Pizzeria Da Angelo for some delicious wood fired pizza, sitting down to eat among the local teenagers, young families and grandparents alike. Take a stroll after dinner to listen to music playing in the piazza, or come back during the day to explore its warren of back streets and alleyways.
Finally no trip to Puglia is complete without participating in the evening passeggiata and there is no place better for this than Martina Franca with its mixture of shops and wonderful architecture. Sit with a glass of beer in the main square and absorb the wonderfully convivial spectacle.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com