La Mortella Review
Two kilometers (1 mile) north of Forio is one of the most famous gardens in Mediterranean Italy, La Mortella. The garden was a labor of love designed in 1956 by the landscape architect Russell Page for Sir William Walton and his Argentine-born wife, Susana. The garden was created within a wide, bowl-shaped, rocky valley, originally not much more than a quarry, overlooking the Bay of San Francesco and with spreading views toward Monte Epomeo and Forio. Lady Walton, who passed away in 2010, was a talented gardener in her own right, and first planted the trees of her childhood here: jacaranda and the rare bromeliad. Native wild plants were encouraged in the upper reaches of the gardens, with dainty vetches and orchids as well as myrtle, from which the garden got its name, La Mortella. Considering the volcanic valley out of which the gardens were sculpted, they are appropriately threaded with pathways of rocks hewn from Vesuvius. In homage to the hot springs of the island, the centerpiece is an elliptical pond with three small islands adorned with the immense boulders that once littered the grounds. Below, underground cisterns were excavated to catch natural drinking water.
Besides some soothing strolls among the well-labeled flower beds and landscaped rock gardens, try to spend some time in the museum dedicated to the life and works of the late English composer, William Walton. The gardens have excellent facilities, including a shop selling Sir William's music and Lady Walton's lively biography of her husband, Behind the Facade, as well as light, homemade refreshments. A theater was opened in 2006, and hosts a concert series on most weekends. Book well in advance for these tickets.