I’ve been absent from posting for a few weeks now, as I was away on holiday and I left most of my writing at home. Most. Last summer I wrote you the first Postcard from Lugano; and I will say that not much has changed. It’s still beautiful, with lazy hot days with a cool breeze coming off the lake, and warm evenings with glistening stars overhead and a glittering city below. This first photo was taken at about 4 in the morning (I have no sleeping rhythm, which is handy when such scenes present themselves).
But as I told you, I left most of my writing at home – not all. When in Lugano, I’ve been working on a novel the past few years; it started out as a fun idea to explore, and gradually developed into a more serious endeavor. I thought I’d share it with you as it may inspire you to take on such a writing project of your own on holidays (it may not classify as travel writing per se, though in some ways [like my postcards] it may at times take on those characteristics): Our family flat overlooks a sprawling mansion that we have watched decay from neglect for over 20 years; it was most likely trapped in an inheritance dispute. It had been boarded up, its windows bricked in, its magnificent garden going wild until it was an impassable jumble of green. About three or four years ago suddenly a crane was set up, and renovations began! Of course it sparked my writer’s brain – who had inherited it, or purchased it? What was its history? From the looks of it I will have several more years to ponder its end as the renovations continue; but by now the gardens and the terraced walls have been brought to life, a new drive laid with mosaic stones, and the house itself has been set free of its bricked-over, blinded windows, the roof replaced, and the beautiful stones (I would venture to guess Bath Freestone) sand-blasted and cleaned to their pristine beauty.
Called Villa Helios, it was designed by architect Otto Maraini, who was born in Lugano on 8 November 1863 and died there 16 January 1944. Villa Helios in Castagnola was built in 1901-1902, including a series of walls and terraces that formed part of the lake shore. I came across a few historical photos at arteeidee – thank you to them for sharing the old magazine photos (“The Modern Building” monthly magazine of architecture and construction practice, August 1904)! Check out that blog post for the older photos (click on them to enlarge); The photos I’ve added here are current shots. I’ll just say two things about the crane: Note the box hanging from it, near the vertical shaft – that is the tool crate, hung up at the end of work days to deter construction site thieves. Also, though the crane interrupts our view of Lugano at times (it shifts freely with the wind when not in use, so sometimes we barely see it), it gives us a brilliant view of birds that take over when the workers are gone – there’s a constant conversation between the seagulls and the Hooded crows. I’d love to do more research on this building, but most of the information is in Italian, which I can fight my way through only passably, but as I said I still have plenty of time. That’s the beauty of holidays.
To you writers out there: Find an interesting old building in your own area, research into its history, and create a story with the building as one of the characters and not merely a location.