When I win the lottery . . . I’ll take Close to Paradise, by Robert Fisher, with me to go house-hunting around the Bay of Naples. A picture book with plenty of text also, its main title is correct, but the subtitle isn’t quite accurate—it really is just as much if not more about the residences and their residents/caretakers, past and present, as about the gardens themselves.Fisher starts us off just north of Naples on this tour of houses and gardens, which are in the “Italian language with an English accent.” The English are responsible for many of these spots from about the mid-nineteenth century on, having discovered them on grand tours. But, of course, the stars of the book are the photos, where I’m struck by the presence of the human hand—ancient, medieval, and modern—in the most enchanting pictures. Plants, trees, and flowers are great and all, but we should remember that gardens are really the work of humans. The English, especially, had a penchant for lawns, which some of us know take a lot of work and plenty of water. Yet, nature does provide the canvas . . . and some pretty good views. 


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