Citrus gardens in Sanremo

There is a Sanremo made of citrus gardens, autochthon species and international trades, the perfume of cedar, the yellow of lemons that blends into the orange of ancient tangerines. A Sanremo that speaks of history and crops today disappeared: a world and a landscape, narrated with precision by Irma Benjamin in her latest book Giardini di agrumi nel paesaggio di Sanremo. Coltura e varietà nei secoli XII-XIX (Citrus Gardens in the Sanremo Landscape. Culture and varieties in the 12th -19th centuries).

An historian and landscapist, Irma Beniamino had worked on the Sanremo cultivations in the past with the unforgettable Libereso Guglielmi. The roots of the research on citruses lie in the bachelor’s thesis and explores a little-known feature of these crops, spread in the Riviera for both commercial and food scopes and for aesthetic use. “In the book, I describe the cultivation of citrus fruits in Sanremo, but also the transformation of the landscape – she says – and then the varieties, spread in the Italian and European historic gardens from the Baroque period onwards.” The first iconographic documentation in the city on citrus fruits dates to the mid-seventeenth century, while the first quote on the variety dates to the thirteenth century. “From there we reach the early 1900s – adds Irma Beniamino – up to the disappearance of the landscape and even of the memory to a certain extent. Yet memory is still strong in neighbouring territories, like Menton, even if not as famous internationally.”

The city of flowers was the city of citrus fruits in the past with varieties bearing its name and that had gained international fame. Sanremo was in fact famous for the citron, considered the best in Italy and able to attract, since the Middle Ages, the presence of Jewish traders coming from all over Europe. And then there was the so-called lemon of Sanremo, documented in dozens of publications and in the orangerie collections of the most important historic gardens in Europe. “Some varieties still exist today – explains the author – but are limited to historical collections, for example the Medici of Boboli in Florence, or to a highly specialised nursery of antique citrus fruits.”

[Alessandra Chiappori]

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