The de Renzis Residence Park
Via F. De Renzis n. 32, Frazione Montanaro – Francolise (CE)
The Montanaro castle, located on a lovely hillside, became property of the de Renzis’ in 1589, when the wealthy family from Rome (descendents of Cola di Rienzo, the unfortunate tribune and head of the popular insurrection of Rome in 1347) were given the title of baron for the fief of Montanaro, acquired by Francesco Caracciolo. Beginning in 1875, and until the first part of the 1900’s, the castle underwent radical modifications that transformed it into a splendid residence, in the neo-medieval style, decorated with battlements, windows and coats of arms. What can be seen today is thanks to a reconstruction, similar to the old design, which was carried out after 1944 when the Germans, while withdrawing, mined the residence to the ground. However, the large park of approximately 80,000 square meters was not destroyed, and in fact, still conserves the plan and many plants date back to the end of the 1800’s.
The primary axis of the park is along a wide, tree-lined lane with Atlantic cedars from the 1800’s. This connects with the entrance in front of the residence and its park gate on the public road. The militaristic tone, inspired from the architectural elements of the old residence, is also to be found in a nearby squared-off, sculpted hedge which simulates the turrets from the medieval tower. From the original park, there are also many conifers of various species, Bay Oaks, Bay Laurel trees, Holm-Oaks and Beeches, beautiful and rare male and female Cycas and palms, a Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) from the same epoch as the one found in the English Gardens at the Royal Palace in Caserta and English Oaks, not to mention the many Holm-Oaks higher up which form a dense wood where the ruins of a neo-gothic chapel can be found. Next to these older plants, such as the centuries-old oaks, are others which aren’t as ancient, giving witness to the constant care that the owners have had and continue to have for their park. In this way, we see antique rose bushes, geraniums and many varieties of flowers in the flowerbeds near the house. Wisteria and bougainvilleas also decorate the walls and pergola of the residence.
It’s interesting to note the connection between the useful and the artistic, which persists in the old residence which is strongly connected to the surrounding agricultural land. There are a variety of buildings, currently in disuse, which are visible from the rustic courtyards situated at the back of the residence; among these include a chicken and dove house as well as the presence of a large cultivated area including an olive, citrus and apple grove.
The alternation between intent and function reveals a conflict only apparent in the initial project, missing a unifying spirit that could be deduced from a botanist or agronomist, but that goes against the rule, rules that the current owners have conserved with loving attention: control and discipline of the uncultivated rustic and the emphasis of the botanical park, juxtaposed against the productive and the pleasurable, creating a special atmosphere in the Park of the de Renzis residence with the splendid result in its simplicity and naturalness.