Giuseppe Barbera, one of the leading Italian botanical historians, has devoted a great deal of attention to the Mediterranean agricultural tradition, its history and the landscape it has shaped over the centuries.
In this engaging and evocative book, finally republished according to the original project, that is, accompanied by a rich iconography, Barbera describes the fruit trees of Italy, from the lemon groves of Garda to the Renaissance gardens, the Conca d’Oro to the slopes of Etna, engaging the help of the words of great writers – Pascoli, Gadda, Pavese, Shakespeare, Woolf, Montaigne, Flaubert and many others – and with the images of the famous artists who have drawn inspiration from these wonderful trees.
The history of fruit trees over the course of the centuries has been intertwined with the history of man and the places he inhabited, the Roman gardens, the gardens of the Islamic world and those of the Renaissance. That history was enriched by new species and techniques from encounters with ancient Asiatic cultures and, later, by the unknown flora of America. With its productive, environmental, aesthetic and ethical functions, the fruit tree will be a key part of the Mediterranean landscape even when, writes Barbera, “with the 19th century agricultural and social revolution, it will move from the confines of the garden to the wide spaces of the hills and plains until it starts to climb up the flanks of the mountain, onto soils made flat by terraces. The garden will expand as a 'popular aesthetic' in the vastness of the agricultural landscape. The scenery of the Mediterranean garden will remain almost unchanged over the centuries, until just less than 50 years ago, when the traditional agricultural crises and the abandonment of the countryside will be compounded by the aesthetic and productive devastation of the landscape”.
With this book, Barbera wants to reaffirm the great importance of Mediterranean fruit trees, “because in the use of their produce, in the role they have played, in the feelings they have inspired, good reasons can be found to defend them where they still exist, or to plant them (...), to restate the need to preserve, not only the fruit trees, but that knowledge and feeling that embodies the Mediterranean identity”.
Giuseppe Barbera is tenured professor of Arboreal Cultivation at the University of Palermo. His studies focus on the trees, rural systems and countryside of the Mediterranean. He has authored numerous scientific publications, including: L’Orto di Pomona (2000), Ficodindia (2002), Abbracciare gli alberi (2009), Qualche cosa del mondo (2010). He was the scientist in charge of the restoration of the Kolymbetra (Valle dei Templi Park) and the Donnafugata garden on the island of Pantelleria on behalf of FAI (the Italian Environment Fund). He is honorary member of the A.I.A.P.P. (Italian Association of Landscape Architecture). He is a member of the “Osservatorio nazionale del paesaggio rurale” scientific council and of the “Fondazione Benetton Studi e Ricerche” Scientific Committee.