A TRIBUTE TO ANDRE’ HELLER, AN ARTIST IN LOVE WITH GARDONE RIVIERA

Hotel Villa Florida, with Suites and four stars bedrooms, proposes a text written by the artist Heller, who grasps the soul of Gardone Riviera, on Garda Lake.

Many places and landscapes in Gardone Riviera evoke Luchino Visconti’s films, like flashbacks and visions on times gone by when ladies wore fancy veiled bonnets and maidservants in dressing rooms handed them lavender-scented, wardrobe satin gloves. A kind of spell rules over the place, a slowness and idleness, as if time didn’t belong to this first original southern part which welcomes travellers arriving from Riva through the numerous tunnels of the western Gardesana road. Not even the promenade is missing, with its foundations built on the lakeside, populated by large oleanders and orange trees. Cafés and pool rooms are also down there. Those who stroll along the lakeside see Mount Baldo’s silhouette in the distance, often covered with snow until May, as a sort of last evidence of the Alps and much closer, amongst the dancing waves, stretches the Cypress island, a shelter chosen by Saint Frances at the start of his journey. Gardone Riviera consists of two parts: a group of houses by the lakeside and another lying on the gentle downhill near the church. The natives actually call them Gardone Sopra and Gardone Sotto. Elegance belongs to Gardone Sotto: the Grand Hotel, to which Stefan Zweig’s “A heart’s decline” gave union with literary eternity, the cocktail-bar where Winston Churchill used to retire after painting, the Hotel Savoy resort where in early 1900 daily evening balls were held, accompanied by a grand orchestra and presented to the Resort’s noble guests from Russia, Sweden and other icy kingdoms. Gardone Sopra is more countrified, it tastes more of olives and grappa and sometimes, along its sharp-edged lanes, few devoted women still pray with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Their grandparents perhaps waited on that ambiguous monster called Gabriele D’Annunzio, whose lush residence stretching across 9 acres in Gardone, speaks of pompous haughtiness, exulting war and bloody sacrifices, which by no chance had great importance for Mussolini and which fill me with disgust. Gardone Sotto and Sopra are linked together by a place of sensuality and magic strength: the Botanic Garden. A choice collection of plants from regions of this planet: Africa, South America, Asia, Europe and Australia all intertwined with one another. Edelweiss amid orchid meadows, fern trees several metres high sided by magnificent pomegranates. Rivulets and waterfalls, ponds with sacred Koi carps, trouts and reflections of dragonflies in flight, dolomite rock slopes near cacti and ivy towers. Indian and Moroccan sculptures team well with art installations created by Roy Lichtenstein, Susanne Schmoegner, Mimmo Paladino, and Keith Haring. I’ve belonged to this paradise since 1988, it has never stopped surprising me and my friends. It was the last Tsar’s dentist, Doctor Arturo Hruska, who created this bliss which hosts, among others, a Venetian Villa, now my beloved residence. When I happen to admire the beauty of Lake Garda from my balcony or from one of the bamboo groves, I still cannot believe this park should have me as its housekeeper and ally and I thank it as best as I can, with all my love.

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