On Friday we decided to hit the mountain road. A little rain and a crisp easterly wind have cleared the air affording us some spectacular views over the sea. So we drove down the coast a little and drove up this road into the Apuan Alps above the city of Massa. The Apuan Alps are famous for their Carrarra marble.
Our destination was a botanic garden where I was hoping to find some interesting native plants: the Orto Botanico "Pietro Pellegrini". If you are travelling in this area I can't recommend this place highly enough. It is a natural rather than a formal botanic garden displaying the local flora only on a spectacular mountain setting. It lies at over 900m altitude and the sea lies just below you.
As for practicalities, the place is open from May to September, entrance is free and you get a guide thrown in as well. Ours was a charming natural science student from Pisa:
Spring no doubt would be the better time to visit when they have dozens of orchid species in flower. However one of my discoveries of the day was wild winter savoury, satureia montana.
I have long known this herb and routinely grow it amongst beans, but I have never seen it in its wild habitat, which is the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean.
For those not familiar with this herb, it is to beans what basil is to tomatoes. It makes a great companion plant to beans, but it also combines well with beans on the plate. Not only does the warm, peppery taste go well with beans, it also aids digestion and prevents excessive bloating, which can of course be a problem with beans. It associates so well with beans that in German they in fact call it Bohnenkraut", which means bean herb.
A tea made from the herb is also good as a blood cleanser. Leaves rubbed onto a bee sting is a traditional cure. And bees get attracted to the flowers if you have this herb growing in your garden. Now I know where to find it in the wild.
And finally... Eddie the Beagle also had a great day out. Here he is doing his mountain goat impression: