The terraced gardens of Casa Cuseni are a remarkable feat of careful design, sound construction and skilful engineering. To hold the winter rainfall until the summertime, Kitson designed a set of large cisterns under the front terrace and the pergola, for which several wells and the swimming pool made further provision. The gardens were filled with citrus and other fruit trees as well as roses, vines and wisteria, some of which still adorn the terraces. They were an integral part of Kitson's overall design, lined up on the axis of the house and enlivening the steep access to it.
At every level there is a major feature to catch the eye, both from above and below the entrance court with its basin of papyrus and tall coloured stucco piers and pavement; the patterned-brick ramps and steps sweeping up around the lower parterre; the tribune and bastione with their stucco strap-work and bold caricatures; the rococo stucco seating in the pergola; the noble stairway up to the main terrace with its sculpted fountain niche - all provide interest, diversion and even excitement in one's ascent to the front of the house. Behind it are rather more distinctly separated gardens, with an architectural design –one with a jazzy tiled fountain prophetic of Art Deco design in Europe several years later; the jasmine draped swimming pool, and a large garden room with a ciottolato, citrus and iris beds, and a piscina with Tunisian-tiled and sculpture filled niches. This was Kitson's finest contribution to Italian garden design. It is very seldom that such gardens have been preserved and maintained. Taormina is filled with villas by recent building development, collapsed terraces and a sense of concrete destruction. Casa Cuseni preservers the main lines of its garden structure as well as an oasis for the birds of Sicily and those on migration.
By David Boswell
The Open University
Faculty of Social Sciences
15 February 1994
A tour of the garden would begin with the papyrus pool which is surmounted by a tall rococo structure abutting the citrus terrace above. Olive trees, plumbago and cypress laced with bourgainvillea trace the semicircular garden wall which separates the garden from the busy road to Castelmola.The citrus terrace was planted in the 1930s with a mixture of lemon, grapefruit, mandarin and sweet orange trees. Caricatures of the owner and his capo-maestro, Don Carlo Siligato, adorn the walls on this level veiled by the red blossoms of the pomegranate. There are unexpected glimpses of a statue or an ancient jar bursting with trailing succulents. A double ramp leads to a ciottolato pavement in the form of a fishpond and on this terrace there is a selection of trees from all over the world. Here the fronds of the California pepper tree, circular leaves of the custard apple and spiny trunk of the chorisia compliment the exotic white foliage of the orchid tree. A double staircase brings the visitor to the terrace in front of the house, passing a small basin backed by the face of an ancient satyr. To the right, a pergola covered in wisteria, jasmine and white bourgainvillea provides fragrance and a welcome shady place in the garden.On the left, vines cover an al fresco dining area.The date 1905 is moulded in wrought iron above the front door to the right side of the house. Trees on this terrace include a persimmon, alongside more common Mediterranean plants such as lantana and bay. In spring this area is filled with aoneum, red flax and hibiscus. A high wall draped in wisteria separates this garden from the more formal santolina terrace.Wandering on up the path the visitor arrives at another garden way above the house with spectacular views of Etna on a fine day. A large ciottolato pavement lined by fruit trees,. iris and agapanthus ends in another papyrus pool bounded on three sides by a pink stuccoed wall with graceful statues in niches at either end. The old swimming pool is situated on the top level above the olive trees.