Staying in the farmhouse of Corte Eremo in the summer is totally different to being here for a few days in the winter. This page describes the seasons a bit more and the pros and cons of different months, so guests know what to expect and can plan their holiday accordingly. I’ll go heavy on the negative aspects just so there’s no way you won’t be prepared…
Winter: December-January-February Cold, and I mean often damp and very cold! Inside and out. There is no “proper” heating in the guestrooms – just poratble gas heaters which can’t be left on all night or you might not wake up in the morning… The kitchen, bathrooms, library, and one bedroom are heated and toasty, but the biggest problem with visiting in this season is that we’re often either huddled by radiators and covered with blankets in the warm areas or sleeping in cold bedrooms with electric blankets, all hoping spring will come quick… That said, I love winter here. It is the season of no spiders, no flies, no mosquitoes, less housework, and very few guests. It’s gorgeous when it snows, but that only happens once or twice a year, and normally it melts in a few days. From Christmas through the 6th of January its one party after another and lots of people passing by, so those short days of the year pass quickly enough. Our New Year’s Eve party is normally big and fun. The best thing about winter is the quiet! A relaxing time to come if you would like some time alone to read, get some research or writing done or just stay away from people you see too much; a break – a retreat! We organize parties about once a month to pay bills. In mid February we normally host a themed carneval party just to break the winter ice and boredom.
Spring: March-April-May Heavenly! Definitely the best season of the year. It’s cool in early March, and expect some rain, but by the middle of the month it’s daffodil season. It normally rains quite a bit in spring, but it feels so good… The park is so green! April cherry blossoms. May is probably the best month of the year; warm, but not too hot, and still not many mosquitoes! The garden is at its peak. The only negative thing about this period is that we fill up quickly during these months, especially around Easter and through April and May, so you have to reserve well in advance.
Summer: June-July-August Hot. Hot and humid. Quite busy even though there’s no sea breeze and no fresh mountain air… It never rains. The garden at dusk is buzzing with mosquitoes. You absolutely must bring repellant and after bite, and spray yourself often. I’ll be working outside a lot and watering for hours a day. You can help if you want! We use fans, but don’t have or need air conditioning as the nights are cool(ish). Keep your shutters closed and the direct sun out of your room during the day. It might seem odd, but a closed room is much cooler… The sun is almost our enemy these months. People always get burned. I beg guests to protect themselves, but they associate lounging in the sun with a holiday, so it’s hard to convince them it is fierce. The vegetable garden is giving daily now, especially tomatoes, and the place smells of herbs from the kitchen garden. By late July the basil is big enough to start pinching back. The aquatic flowers are blooming in their pots – especially the pontederia and waterlilies. A summer boat trip on the lakes of Mantova to see the lotus flowers in bloom is a must! In 30 minutes you can bicycle into Mantova for ice cream and a stroll around the historic centre. The heat and humidity don’t keep people away – it remains a busy period for Corte Eremo. People come in groups for courses of anything from Italian to painting to yoga… It’s salads and light lunches, and pizza at least once a week, and we eat late in the evening – sometimes sitting down to dinner at 9:30 or 10 pm, and still it might be warm outside. Don’t worry, though – cocktails and snacks start at 8!
Autumn: September-October-November I love autumn. It begins warm and by November is chilly. September and October are beautiful months, but normally not that busy. September is aster and morning glory month, and normally a beautiful temperature, especially toward the later part of the month. The last couple weeks of October are often a bit rainy or foggy and damp, and are dedicated to preparing for our biggest party of the year: Halloween. November has been, for a few years running now, the quietest month of the year. Sometimes I go away if I can. November means gold Gingko biloba leaves and movies projected on the wall, hot popcorn and hot chocolate, a bit of rain, leaves falling, lots of work in the garden… I quite like it, and don’t know why more people don’t travel at this time. There aren’t many flowers in the garden, but the silvers have picked up with the bit of autumn rain, and the ornamental grasses are beautiful now.
The Hortus Horrei Blog documents the whole year in plants, so you can see what is flowering when. Scroll down to “Archive” and pick the month you’re interested in. If I travel, the blog comes with me, so don’t be confused if you sometimes see plants or gardens in England, America, Morocco or Japan – no, that isn’t Corte Eremo! http://hortushorrei.tumblr.com