Situated in a landscape dominated by rocky outcrops – in the local dialect, the word for stone is “cute”– this garden is unique in southern Italy for its succulents, as well as being one of the country’s most successful experiments in modern botanical collecting.
Salvatore Cezzi’s passion for succulents, developed on travels as a young man when he acquired a large number of specimens from all over the world, spawned this garden. Divided into thematic sections, it is arranged along a path that starts out from the two most striking environments, the rock garden and the greenhouse. The rock garden is predominantly a collection of agaves, Opuntia and other varieties of Cactaceae; the greenhouse is filled with many specimens of subtropical and tropical plant, many of which are remarkable for their size. Arbours of trailing roses and fragrant jasmine mark out the transitions between the different gardens. The garden’s highlights are: a natural pond for collecting rainwater, planted with papyrus, water lilies and other hygrophilous plants such as bamboo, water hyacinth, and yellow-flowering irises; the “Italian garden”, its geometrically-arranged flowerbeds adorned with topiary boxwood; a medicinal herb garden for therapeutic use; a rose garden, with a collection of roses ancient and modern and the intoxicating scent of damask roses; a wood of centuries-old holm oaks, one of the few remaining examples in the Salento area; and last but not least, a secret garden, hidden away in an evocative stone quarry, planted with tree ferns and plants of subtropical origin.
This modern 1,000 m2 structure encloses a patio, providing a home to a couple of thousand specimens of subtropical and tropical plants arranged geographically; it is, quite likely, the most complete collection of succulents in Italy.
The Secret Garden
The most recent of these gardens, the “secret garden”, features plants of subtropical origin. They grow in this small system of quarries thanks to the shade and humidity, as well as the small pool of water.
The park also contains a centuries-old forest of evergreen oaks, a typical Salento ilex grove, consisting of age-old majestic trees and sparse Mediterranean shrub brush. The outer fringes of the garden feature some large specimens of Virgilian oak.
The “Old Lady's Rocks”
Impressive geological formations from the Miocene era some two kilometres from the garden were shaped by atmospheric agents. They have evocative names: the “Old Woman’s bed” (an enormous limestone block vaguely resembling a bed), the Old Woman’s spindle (recalling an instrument used in days gone by to spin yarn), and the gigantic Hercules’ foot.