Giulio Einaudi at the Hanbury Botanical Gardens
Giulio Einaudi often visited the Hanbury Botanical Gardens on the Mortola promontory, in Ventimiglia, Liguria. The founder of one of Italy’s most important publishing houses, Einaudi, loved that stretch of coastline, which declines into the sea so full of botanical species from the world over.
He would tell Domenico “Mimmo” Fiorino, his personal chauffeur from 1986 to 1999, “Keep your schedule clear for next Friday, because we are going away for the Hanbury award. We can even take a dip”. Fiorino told the story of his outstanding work experience in a book he published a few years ago, “Alla guida dell’Einaudi” (Mondadori, Milan 2011), which of course provides an interesting biography of his employer for thirteen years.
“It was one week from the Hanbury Botanical Gardens Award, and I was very happy to know we were going because I liked taking him to the Mortola. If you don’t know the history of the Hanbury Award, here is what I found out the first time I drove Einaudi there.”
“In 1867, one Thomas Hanbury, an English baronet who lived on the French Riviera, bought the Mortola – a promontory that overlooks Ventimiglia, right before the French border – and decided to turn it into a garden where he could keep exotic or simply interesting species. Thanks to botanists, gardeners, and help from his brother Daniel – who studied medicinal plants – he renovated the estate of the marquis Orengo, brought plants there, added pathways and fountains, and so on. When he died in 1907, the garden was wonderful. His widow sold it to the Italian State only in 1960, and in 1987 the University of Genoa took it on.”
“In 1993, the award was established to ‘promote the culture of gardens, flowers, and landscape, highlighting books on architecture, botany, photography, and creativity dedicated to the spirit of nature, to garden literature – also in an ideal sense, as a metaphor for life,’ as is stated in the rules. Einaudi was part of the jury, and one of his friends had a small villa right on the Mortola.”
“So, every summer, the Hanbury was a chance to spend a few days at the seaside. We went for years, in that small hamlet above Ventimiglia; sometimes I drove him and left him there, others I stopped with him.”
Let’s stop there ourselves: it is an amazing place of nature and literature.
Photos via: ©Alessandro Luigi Mosca