"Ever since I was a child, I liked trees, plants, and especially flowers. It was my mother who started this passion in me. And I remember that as a child I carefully selected the violets from the field to be brought to the teacher. It was the first aesthetic selection of my career at a time when the most important women were Madonna, Mom and my School Teacher. It was my first tribute to beauty. Already within me I had a dream I was trying to accomplish."
ANTONIO'S DREAM EXPANDS
Saying this is Antonio Aumenta, owner of one of the largest nurseries in the province, who for years has cultivated the dream of building and opening to the public one of Europe's largest botanical parks.
"It will be called 'Park of the Continents' and I will open it in April 2018, because it has been in my head for decades and I've been working on it for years."
It is a great botanical park where you can admire the flora and landscapes of all the world. It is divided into territorial areas and not by climatic bands, as is often the case in similar parks.
"It was a bet with myself, as I always have done. My idea was to recreate a landscape and the vegetation of a distant country. To find the atmosphere of that place".
TREASURES FROM ALL THE WORLD
"I've gone round the world not only for plants but also for the habitat of the environment they come from. During this time I collected plants after plants for this park. Finally, in 2006, I found a place that seemed ideal to undertake this initiative: on the sole hilltop in the Municipality of Pontinia at the borders with Priverno, on Via Marittima Seconda in the locality of Procoio.
When it is complete, the park will be 16 acres area and there will be thousands and thousands of different plants".
Antonio Aumenta has some experience in landscapes, at least from what he tells us about his professional career. His parents were farmers and they sent him to study at the agrarian institute he got to like so much.
"In my time it was a different thing, you could really do the job and I was able to work for years with Pietro Porcinai, the best and greatest landscape architect ever in our country.
Then I worked as a gardener of Ninfa from '77 to '84. I learned a lot, I met Princess Diana and Prince Charles when they visited the garden, I had a lot from that experience, in short, but I also gave much".
The family business created by this gentleman by very simple ways is really immense and rich in material. But when we ask Mr. Antonio Aumenta what he has spent on his incredible collection of plants from around the world he shrugs and smiles:
"You see, I've always been one that if I have to buy a car I would look at every penny. But if I like a plant and I'm convinced it's unique I do not care how much it costs. In this park, however, we do not just want to display the plants but we want to carry people physically to the places they come from".
THE SAND OF THE MEXICAN DESERT IN PONTINIA
"Let me give you some examples. We also imported boulders from the Mexican desert, sand and soil from Australia, we brought millennial plants, more unique than rare, and we have depicted rainy and desert landscapes. We brought the plant that fed dinosaurs, the Dicksonia Antarctica which is a true fossil still living among us.
There are millennial plants, there are some very rare that have developed toxic defense mechanisms against other plants. Others that are capable of living for millennia. All in fascinating landscapes that only nature and a bit of ingenuity can create.
And so, in the area dedicated to Europe, we paid homage to the olive tree, a fundamental plant of our history, creating a colossal and very impressive amphitheatre with stones and olive trees.
But it's only by seeing all of this that you can appreciate it. Words and photos will not suffice to describe this dream when it is done but it is indicative to think that the park is so well done that it has already been chosen for photographic and cinematic sets in the recent past".
OPENING APRIL 2018
The time has come: "Opening must occur in 2018, I think in April. I will call it ‘The Park of the Continents’ and I hope to help all those who are passionate about seeing things they have not seen in their lives as well as those who are less sensitive to nature for them to understand how delicate and extraordinary our planet is.
It's the dream of a lifetime, I have worked hard to try and realize it, and I hope I can see it soon. "
This is a challenge not so small for this entrepreneur who is likely to become one of the world's largest collectors of plants. And you can just about believe it when you visit the park under construction in Pontinia in the province of Latina.
It seems like walking through an imaginary path of a deserted desert or diving into the air filled with perfumes of an ancient Japanese garden. There is all the wisdom of experience and a dose of girlhood folly. The same thing that pushed this once-child entrepreneur to look for the finest violets in the field to give to the teacher on the first day of school.
And Antonio Aumenta, in his several decade long work in search of the rarest and most exotic flowers and plants to for his botanical park of dreams, never ceases to look at every single flower as if it were the most beautiful in the world.
Published in the weekly newspaper "Il Caffè di Latina"