maintenance in historical gardens: the case of the castle in fosdinovo


maintenance in historical gardens: the case of the castle in fosdinovo
Authors: Virginia Neri¹; Greta Parri¹; Claudia Parisi¹
Affiliations: 1 - Università degli Studi di Firenze
Many historical artifacts are in close relationship with landscape: there are many
examples of villas, castles, fortresses and fortified villages either Italy and in Europe.
The care, management and enhancement of these artifacts, have repercussions
in landscape and create a synergy in which the case of Fosdinovo Castle and its
gardens is an example.
This article elaborates the contents of the Master's thesis in Landscape architecture
discussed in April 2013 (University of Florence, Uniser of Pistoia).
The research has the objective to analyze the aspects of vulnerability typical of these
artifacts, providing project interventions of "sustainable exploitation" that can improve
the conservation conditions, without neglecting aspects of maintenance.
Thematic areas that concern landscape architecture are many and varied and often,
more than one participates in the identification of special cases: in this case, the study
of open spaces of a historical artifact.
The theme of the relationship between restoration and landscape began to be
investigated only by the middle of last century.
The first international conference on historic gardens took place in 1971 in
Fontainebleau, promoted by ICOMOS and from IFLA and the first document which
officially recognizes historic gardens and the criteria to intervene is the Charter of
historic gardens in Florence, signed in 1981.
The theme is relatively young and, as a consequence, is not fully taken into account
even today, as evidenced by the regard of many historic gardens in Italy.
The gardens in the castle of Fosdinovo are suffering the same fate.
Currently in the castle there is a museum, but the gardens are excluded from the tour
route, preventing visitors to enter into a relationship with the real story of the castle.
The main issue is the maintenance and the economic aspect in maintaining historical
open spaces can represent a strong discriminant.
Project proposals take account of some fundamental aspects: the maintenance of an
historical place, the respect of an "ancient material" and of the identity of the place, the
environmental sustainability. After a in-depth analysis of historic transformations and of
the castle's architectural structure, we have focused our attention not only on the
gardens [Im. 1, 2, 3] but also on the walls surrounding the castle, which are usually
considered as a limit, a fence with secret gardens. These walls [Im. 4] have a particular
attribute that characterizes them and their own identity: they are rich in herbaceous
species (we have counted more than 80), born in interstitial spaces of great stones of
"pietraforte". In reference to already performed studies, about the importance of
monitoring species that grow wild on the historical walls, we have decided to valorize
"not dangerous" species, whose roots can’t compromise the structure of ancient walls.
The idea to valorize these species, especially native ones, is important for several
reasons: for maintenance aspects, for economic saving and for aesthetic values.
From this point of view, the thesis has also touched a topical issue such as the
environmental sustainability that is frequently used and probably is abused too.
Starting from the presupposition that a restoration work is a sustainable action as it
increases the value of existing buildings, in this case, it also affects the sensitive issue
of herbicides. They are usually recommended in Restoration Manuals to defeat
the presence of vegetation, but It is useful to know how to recognize the dangerous
species in relation to architectural artifacts in order to use less chemicals substances
that are harmful and dangerous both for the environment and for humans.
Our methodology to classify and to map the vegetation is composed of different steps:
1. to collect vegetation's specimens that you can find in each garden, in interstitial
spaces of parapets and ancient walls taking care to some important factors
such as the site's exposure, the type and the morphology of the substrate, the
shadow's presence, etc...
2. to recognize and to classify all specimens as herbaceous species (annual,
biennial, perennial), shrubs, climbing shrubs, rambler shrubs and trees;
3. to create a herbarium: a collection of plant specimens which are then mounted
on sheets of stiff white paper. They are also labeled with all essential data, such
as date and place found, description of the plant, altitude, and special habitat
After identifying the species, we have calculated a Dangerousness Index (D.I.) relating
to each specimen and it can most easily be described as the danger of species in
relation to architectural artifacts. The value range is from 3 to 13 and it is obtained
by summing the values attributed to the species in relation to: biological form,
invasiveness, vigor and type of root system. In the case of exotic species, we have also
considered a multiplying factor of 2, called "index of exoticism."
Then we have put all species under four classes (1.low D.I. / 2. medium D.I./ high D.I./
high D.I. and exotic species) according to the index's value and, finally, we have
established four types of different actions:
(I) to INCREASE SPECIES with low dangerousness, with an aesthetical value, an
intense perfume etc...
(M) to PRESERVE SPECIES with a low/medium D.I.;
(MM) to PRESERVE SPECIES WITH MONITORING when there are species of high
D.I. but with own distinctive
(E) to ELIMINATE SPECIES with a high D.I.
The analytical and projectual approach can set up guidelines and management plans
useful for other historical residences, comparable in features and maintenance issues.
- De Vita M., a cura di (2012), Città storica e sostenibilità, Atti del convegno, Firenze,
17 marzo 2009, Firenze, Firenze University Press.
- Gallo N. (2002), Guida storico-architettonica dei castelli della Lunigiana toscana,
- Giusti M. A. (2004), Restauro dei giardini. Teorie e storia, Firenze, Alinea.
- Matteini T. (2009), Paesaggi del tempo. Documenti archeologici e rovine artificiali nel
disegno del giardino e del paesaggio, Firenze, Alinea.
- Piccioli D. F. (1971), Il castello di Fosdinovo, i Malaspina dallo spino fiorito e Dante
Alighieri, Sarzana, Grafiche Sarzanesi.
- Pignatti S. (1982), Flora d'Italia, Edagricole.
- Romani V. (2008), Il paesaggio. Percorsi di studio, Milano, Franco Angeli.
- Signorini M. A. (1995), Lo studio e il controllo della vegetazione infestante nei siti
archeologici. Una proposta metodologica, in L. Marino, C. Nenci (a cura di), L'area
archeologica di Fiesole. Rilievi e ricerche per la conservazione, Alinea, Firenze, pp. 4146.
- Signorini M. A. (1996), L’indice di pericolosità: un contributo del botanico al controllo
della vegetazione infestante nelle aree monumentali, in «Informatore botanico
italiano», 28 (1), pagg. 7-14.
- Turri E. (2002), La conoscenza del territorio. Metodologia per un'analisi storicogeografica, Venezia, Marsilio.
- Venturi Ferriolo, M. (2009), Percepire paesaggi. La potenza dello sguardo, Torino,
Bollati e Boringhieri. historical gardens, sustainable exploitation, Dangerousness Index