AmboiseCulture & Heritage Article published on18th July 2019
A persistent rumor
It all started with a rumor, heard here and there when I moved to the region, about 10 years ago: there would be in Amboise, lost in the bushes, a royal domain forgotten since the Renaissance… An Italian-style palace, nestled within a 40-acre park, once lived in by kings Charles VIII and Francis I. It just seemed impossible, and yet; few researches made one name appear: Gaillard! 10 years of gigantic renovations later, dive with me in the heart of the rediscovered paradise of the French kings!
As we pass the gate, the scenery is already set: an impressive and wonderful alley bordered with plain trees opens the way. A few steps are enough to make you feel completely away; we are in the heart of a city visited by over 1 million people and yet, no noise seems to be able to disturb your visit, except the squawking of the birds and rustling of the tree leaves.
The most Italian chateau of the Loire Valley
With its back onto the limestone cliff, the white outline of the château slowly appears. It is said that when king Charles VIII visited the Napoli mansions and gardens during his Italian war, he was so enthralled by the experience that he ordered the construction of a replica on his Loire Valley lands. To make the king’s dream come true, a group of Italian artists came along, among whom two names arise: Fra Giocondo and above all, Dom Pacello da Mercoliano.
The latter, a monk and gardener, will make of Gaillard a true laboratory of the new planting and growing techniques for fruits, flowers and vegetables, some of which will grow under a climate that would have seemed just impossible. Let’s push the door of the orangery, located under the château, and enjoy the enchanting perfume of the orange blossom. Down the house, listen to the sweet and regular slapping of the fountain then walk onto one of the many paths wandering through the grounds.
Flavors of the Mediterranean area
Bordered by river Amasse, several colorful gardens spread in a beautiful aligning. Apple trees, vines, roses and palm trees make you travel into a luxurious heaven with some Mediterranean flavors. A few meters away, several deckchairs await the visitor on the grass like an obvious invitation to relaxation and contemplation. Inside the furnished château, a rich collection of unique artifacts remind of the memory of its famous inhabitants, while the many troglodytic grottoes offer the visitors some very refreshing moments.
Speaking of freshness…you should definitely not leave without having tasted a freshly pressed orange juice at the Comptoir des Agrumes next to a piece of orange cake. Just delicious!