As I was walking along Sant’Agata’s sunny ‘panoramica’ and basking in the delicious warmth of the longer days, I marveled at the explosion of greens, yellows, whites and pinks coursing through the countryside that, until a week ago, had seemed dead to the world.
I rounded the homeward bend, and while keeping an eye on my dog, who was furiously pouncing on the grass in the hopes of arousing a lizard, I was blown away by a vision of grace and beauty that embellishes so many Italian villas, walls, balconies, pergolas, terraces, banisters and rails and that more than anything embodies the promise of Spring: the wisterias in bloom.
Introduced into Europe in 1816 and Italy in1840, the plant originally comes from the Orient where it is known as the ‘blue vine’. There are many varieties of wisteria ranging from white to yellow and even red, but the one commonly seen in Italy sports abundant flowers in a mixture of lilac and lavender. The plant can reach a height of 40 meters and if well-supported, can grow to a length of 80 meters!
The Italian name, glicine, comes from the same Greek word which means ‘sweet plant’. (Introduced into America in the 1700’s the ‘wisteria’ was named after the German anthropologist Kaspar Wistar)
Like all the best things in life, the wisteria’s bloom is over much too soon, but fortunately it flourishes again in June and July and its lush, green leaves provide welcome relief from the unforgiving August sun.