VILLA IL TRITONE - SORRENTO



Villa Tritone is considered to be one of Italy’s most unique and elegant seafront villas. Perched dramatically on top of a sheer, 100-foot cliff it is ideally positioned to view the delights of the Amalfi coastline, the Mediterranean Sea, Naples and of course, the magnificent Mount Vesuvius.

Image credit - http://www.naturamediterraneo.com/
This 19th-century show-piece was bought and improved by William Waldorf Astor in 1905 while living in Italy as Ambassador for the United States of America. In fact it stands over the remains of an important ancient Roman villa which dates back to the 1st century AD. Some parts of which are still visible within the grounds. As historic and beautiful as it is, it is not the villa I am interested in, but the gardens.

Under William Asters close supervision, the grand architectural style of the gardens were designed by the famous landscape architect Harold Peto, and are considered by some to be one of the finest in Europe. Furthermore, the garden holds one of Italy’s most important botanical collections containing upwards of 1000 plant species!

Secret mossy paths and covered alleys run throughout the lush vegetation, revealing Greek and Roman statues, fountains and making the gardens appear much bigger than they actually are. Rather than have the gardens open straight out onto the breath-taking Mediterranean views, Harold Peto designed a wall along the coastal edge of the garden. This created both privacy, but more importantly intensified the vistas by creating large Gothic 'windows' which perfectly frame and contain the full majesty of the landscape beyond.

Image credit - http://www.jardins-de-france.com/
In the 1970's Villa Tritone became the residence of Rita and Mariano Pane, a wealthy shipping family. As soon as they moved in with their young family, Rita Pane became the custodian of the garden, and continued to do so for the best part of 40 years!

During this time Rita has gently allowed the gardens to take on a romantic style, '...a garden of the poets...' as she would say, rather than a garden of the architect. Her technique of allowing the plants to naturalise just out of their original design, but without 'out-competing' neighbouring plants. By allowing the gardens to take an element of control, by not over-managing the plants or trying to keep the original design no matter what, Rita has created one of the world's great Romantic gardens.

Villa Tritone is a private house and so the garden is not open to the public. However I had the good luck to visit Sorrento earlier this year and so took the opportunity to contact Rita Pane to see if an impromptu visit could be arranged.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the timing of my visit was absolutely terrible as the property had recently been sold to a Russian property developer for a mind blowing 35 million Euros!

This is a copy of the reply email sent to me by Rita Pane:
To Simon Eade,
thank you for your consideration, we do have a passion in common!I'm always proud of the visit in our lost garden with Monty Don from BBC.
Unfortunately we are not any more the owner of the beautiful gardens and the new owner are not in the spotbut few days in the year...I doubt about the garden will be still fascinating!
The memory will always help the lover of a lost Paradise!
Kind regards
Will the gardens be kept as lovingly as before? Only time will tell.

Update October 2015

In a recent correspondence with Rita Pane, she has kindly given her permission for us to publish a number of private photographs of the garden which can be viewed in the slideshow above. These beautiful images were taken by her daughter Amelia Pane Schaffner and are a wonderful insight to how the gardens were in their heyday.

For related articles click onto:
HEVER CASTLE
How to get to Villa D’Este from Rome
KNOLE HOUSE AND THE GHOST WITH NO NAME
MAJORELLE GARDENS – MOROCCO
SISSINGHURST GARDENS - a secret history
THE GARDENS OF VILLA IL TRITONE
THE SECRET LIVES OF THE KNOLE HOUSE GHOSTS
VILLA D'ESTE
VILLA IL TRITONE - SORRENTO
WHO WAS JULIUS CAESAR?

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