In the heart of Gioia Tauro, in Cittanova, the “Villa Comunale” (Town Park) is not a simple garden, the classic meeting place with walking paths for the townspeople. Nearly everywhere these gardens are more or less attractive and more or less taken care of.
No, the Villa Comunale “Carlo Ruggiero” in Cittanova is a “national monument of natural history,” recognized as such by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. A bright idea then brought to reality at their own expense during the late nineteenth century by the mayor at that time Charles Ruggiero, a project by Swiss engineer and agronomist Henry Fehr. Stretching over 26,000 square meters, with more than seventy plant species, trees and shrubs, native and non-native, present and in large part, documented.
Structured in two parts, the first being the “Villa” itself, where one finds the bust of Carlo Ruggero, the work of local sculptor Girolamo Scionti, with the adjoining box hedge that forms the number in 1880 (year of construction of the park), a monument to the writer Alberto Cavaliere, and a bronze statue dedicated to the fallen, created by local artist Michele Guerrisi; the second is the outdoor gardens, consisting of four triangles, divided by two crossing paths, in the center of which stands a large ornamental fountain playing water games.
The “Fontana di Marmi” (fountain of marble), can be seen walking through the paths of the park, and was built with marble remains of the convent of Alcantarini, destroyed by the catastrophic earthquake of 1783; another work of Girolamo Scionti. The fountains, in any event, constitute a source of pride for the town of Cittanova. Therefore, not surprisingly, it is known also as “the city of the fountains.” Among the most important includes “Fontana dell’Olmo,” (fountain of the Elm), located in Piazza Cavaliere with construction dating back to 1730. Other fountains that are worth mentioning are the “Fontana di Pietra” (Fountain of Stone) and “Fountain Masotta.”
To promote growth and persistence of the various plant species within the Villa, certainly the particular climatic conditions and geomorphological aspects of the area contributed greatly. In particular, the Mediterranean climate has made possible the development of botanicals such as oak, pine, laurel and strawberry trees.
In the garden where the bust of Carlo Ruggiero is placed it is possible to admire the beautiful Phoenix canariensis Palms. Among the specimens most sought after, scientifically speaking, include the Cycas Revoluta, a plant similar in appearance to the palm tree, but dating back to the Jurassic period, as well as the “archaic” Ginkgo Biloba tree whose existence was discovered in the eighteenth century after all the botanists of the time had decreed its extinction. Then there are azaleas and camellias, oaks and redwoods, colossal pine trees with multiple trunks, whose beauty really does leave one breathless.
The intention of Ruggiero, probably, was that this villa was supposed to represent somewhat of a classic “Italian garden” during the Renaissance. What came out however was much more. The “Villa”of Cittanova is, in some respects, unique within the panorama of Italian botanical gardens hence deserving to be visited, enjoyed and studied.
Near the villa you can visit the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, (Museum of Natural history), a structure of over 400 sqm, rich in mineral, botanical, zoological and mycological finds.