|a spot we passed near Laiano, Tuscany|
So as not to fall into repeating myself, these links will take you to some local Tuscan enthusiasms in Belleville, nearby Kingston and Cobourg.
This past spring, I visited the granddaddy (or more correctly, grandmammy) of them all, when we had a chance to visit Osborne, the summer home built by Queen Victoria and her designing husband Albert, on the Isle of Wight.
|terrace landscape fit for a queen|
It was their refuge from public life, not a bit pretentious, surrounded by carefully choreographed drives and pathways, all ending at the family's private beach and yacht harbour on the Solent.
Three Italianate terraces overlook the valley and the sea.
|the Pavilion, private family quarters|
Since I remain a bit speechless, I'll let this photo essay speak for me.
The most surprising thing to me, was that Osborne was built of brick, with cement render coloured to resemble stone. The area with the square tower was the pavilion - the family wing - built in 1845 after an earlier house on the property was demolished.
|the marine monsters of the Andromeda fountain|
|the shell alcove|
|view from the terrace to the Solent|
|view from the Pavilion terrace|
The arched alcove encrusted with sea shells, designed by Prince Albert, emulating Roman stibarium, or garden seats, has been superbly restored. Note the dolphin seat supports, which I have personally experienced. There was a lovely colonnade nearby, very dank and unrestored, that spoke volumes to me.
Ludwig Gruner's massive 1849 sphinx vase was assembled from mail-order bits. The four sphinxes holding up a huge fluted bowl were improved upon by the addition of wings.
The view from the terraces to the Solent is superb. I've read that the wooded valley leading from the house to the sea was completely remodeled by massive earth-moving equipment, to create the naturalistic fall to the coast.
|the scaffolding conceals Albert's clock tower, under restoration|
Here's more about the clock tower, from Victorianweb.org
The house from the south. The wing to the right was the household and main wing - the arcaded second level was the grand corridor, built to link those wings to Victoria's private apartment. Long galleries, every one filled to bursting with contemporary versions of classical sculpture, paintings, treasures and lots of pet sculpture.
To the left of the carriage ring is the Durbar wing (here's some detail) the interior of which is beyond splendid. We were rocked by the sheer magnificence of everything - the wealth on display, like intricately carved ivory and silver address caskets, containing greetings from Victoria's loyal subjects of the Indian sub-continent.
To the beach.
|Queen Victoria's (restored) bathing machine|
|the wooded valley walk from Osborne to the beach|
|memorial bench to faithful Scottish servant John Brown|
Sadly, Osborne was a beloved family home for only 55 years. When Queen Victoria died, the new Edward VII (formerly the playboy Prince of Wales) couldn't get rid of the place fast enough. It became (but for the sacrosanct private apartments which were closed off behind wrought-iron gates, only opened to the public by Queen Elizabeth, in 1954) a convalescent home for officers, opened in 1904, and home of the Royal Naval College.
|memorial plaque above Victoria's bed|