A botanical and citrus garden in a 45,000 square meter estate is the place where Todolí grows three plants from each of 400 selected varieties.
The former director of the Tate Modern in London, Vicente Todolí, vindicates the horticultural tradition of his native Valencia. In his Botanical and Citrus Garden, he gathers more than 400 ancestral, exotic or endangered varieties. With them he has managed to stop an urban plan.
Centuries pass, but the fascination in citrus fruits in Europe is ever-living. Alexander the Great succumbed before the charm, and the healthy benefits, of these fruits originating in the Far East. In his campaigns against the Persian Empire, in the fourth century BC, the Macedonian conqueror came across citron (Citrus medical) in Media (currently Iran), which is the progenitor of many of the citrus fruits that are currently consumed, and introduced it into the Mediterranean basin.
The Greek Theophrastus (371-287 BC) was one of the first classic authors to mention citron: "The medical apple is not eaten, but it smells very good, just like the leaf of the tree. If placed in your clothes, it protects them from moths, and it is also useful when someone has ingested some deadly poison, if it is administered together with wine it causes vomiting and allows the expulsion of the poison. It can also be used to perfume your breath...".
The Italian Renaissance inherited the passion for citrus fruits of Greeks and Romans. In 1537, when the powerful Cosme I de Medici inherited the Villa di Castello - the rural retreat of the family on the outskirts of Florence - he set up an extensive collection of citrus fruits in his gardens. Many noble families imitated him, making what the Italians called "limonaie" fashionable, and which was known as orangeries in the rest of Europe. "But both in northern Italy and in France, the citrus fruits in these gardens were grown in pots because of the weather. In spring, the plants were taken outside, but with the arrival of the first colds, they were sheltered in constructions conceived for this end."
Following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and the Medici, Todolí, a renowned art expert, has taken his passion for citrons, kumquats and giant lemons to the extreme, founding the Botanical and Citrus Garden El Bartolí, where there are no fewer than 400 citrus varieties, "which we grow outdoors, and not in pots, as was done in the old orangeries. That's one of the advantages of the Valencian climate," he says.