A Palm Trip along the Via Aurelia
The coast road of northwest Italy is a paradise
for palm lovers.
by Tobias Spanner, Tizianstr. 44, W-8000 München
Chamaerops No. 03, published online 23-11-2002
Left: Heaven must be like this: One of the many
gardens along the Via Aurelia. Note Butia, Jubaea, Chamaerops and
Right: Look but don't touch: Heavily armed Trithrinax campestris.
The Italian Riviera is widely known and greatly
appreciated by Northern Europeans for its very agreeable climate.
A great variety of palms and other exotic plants is grown here.
Along most parts of the Riviera, the slopes of the
Ligurian Alps descend quite sharply into the sea, and here the coastline
is very narrow. The range of mountains provides good protection
to the coast, and the moderating influence of the sea further adds
to the mildness of the climate.
Although many palms would be able to grow further
inland, it is along the coastline in the cities that we are able
to see the rarest and the choicest. Only an occasional Phoenix canariensis,
Trachycarpus or Chamaerops can be found in some little villages
Even so, a trip to the Ligurian Alps can still be
very interesting. I was most fascinated by the dry oak forest and
scrublands, which are mainly found over 400m, above the vast olive
tree groves. Many interesting shrubs like Cistus, Myrtus, Pistachia
etc. and many, many rare flowers, birds and butterflies are everywhere.
The best time to go there is April or May when the wild flowers
are a riot of colour.
To see the many beautiful palms of the Riviera,
a trip along the Via Aurelia, the main Street winding along the
coast, is most rewarding. All of the gardens described here can
be found directly along the Via Aurelia, or at least very close
I begin most of my trips in the old and famous city
of Genova, where the highway from the north meets the coast. Since
Genova lacks some of the protection that cities further west have
from the Ligurian Alps, it is more susceptible to frosts, however,
the fact that not many palms are to be found here is more likely
to be due to a lack of enthusiasm among Genovan gardeners. A few
kilometres east and west of the city many palms of the common species
can be observed, but I think it doesn't really get interesting before
one gets west of Albenga.
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