Florence Trevelyan

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Florence Trevelyan (born February 7, 1852, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and baptised at St. Andrew's Church, Hartburn;[1] died October 4, 1907, Taormina, Sicily) was an English gardener and pioneering conservationist.


A member of the well-known Northumberland family, Florence Trevelyan was the only surviving daughter of Edward Spencer Trevelyan and Catherine Ann Forster and granddaughter of Sir John Trevelyan (5th Baronet)[2][3] of Wallington Hall, Northumberland and his wife, Maria Wilson.[4] Her father committed suicide when Florence was aged two[5] and her mother subsequently moved the family to Hallington Demesne, Northumberland, where Florence and her mother appear to have taken a keen interest in establishing the ““pleasure gardens”” there.[6]

After Florence's mother's death in November 1877, she, together with a cousin, Harriet Perceval,[7] toured Europe for approximately two years[8] before eventually settling in Sicily, never returning to England.

Bust of Florence Trevelyan

She bought Isola Bella in 1890, a rocky outcrop only attached to the mainland by a narrow sandy path off the coast below Taormina, built a house and established a garden there. In among the native Mediterranean plants, she planted non-native trees, rare shrubs and grasses. It became the home of various sea birds and some interesting lizards. After Florence's death Isola Bella stayed in private hands until 1990 when it was taken over by the Regional Government of Sicily who designated it a Nature Reserve. It is maintained under the auspices of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

She arrived to Taormina in 1884 [9] and in 1890 she married a doctor, Salvatore Cacciola, a well-known resident of Taormina and for many years its mayor,[10] and moved into the town. There she acquired several parcels of land on the steep hillside below the via Bagnoli Croce and embarked on the creation of another garden, calling it “Hallington Siculo” (Sicilian Hallington). This was a private, shaded, pleasure garden from which there are views of both the sea and Mt. Etna. Again she imported non-native plants, but the garden is most noteworthy for the extraordinary buildings constructed from different kinds of stone, cloth, brick, pipes and other architectural salvage.

View of one of Florence Trevelyan's "follies"

The area was given to Taormina after Florence's death and is now part of a much larger municipal park.[11] This unique garden is the second biggest tourist attraction in Taormina after the Greek Theatre and, together with Isola Bella, receives thousands of visitors a year. Her contribution to the life and economy of Taormina has been recognised in books and film.[12]

She was a pioneer of bird habitat conservation in Italy for the benefit of ornithology rather than for shooting opportunities. LIPU Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli (Italian League for the Protection of Birds) was not founded until 1965. All the real estate bequests in her Will contain the proviso that the legatee should not cut down trees, cultivate land or build houses in any portion of lands she owned in England or in Sicily. She also imposed on those who inherited Hallington Siculo garden and Isola Bella island the obligation of not killing any wild bird or young bird which may be found . . . but cats, rabbits, ravens and falcons must be shot as they are destructive to the little birds and trees. Also all animals and birds, viz. dogs, goats, parrots, peacocks, pigeons, doves, canaries and all other birds of whatever description shall be maintained in health and comfort, with all care and affection, as they have been kept in my lifetime, and that they shall not suffer in any respect.[13] Florence left her property firstly to her husband and then, after his death, to Robert Calverley Trevelyan who is known to have visited her in Taormina.[14] After his death it passed to his brother George Macaulay Trevelyan.

As she requested in her Will, Florence was buried near the village of Castelmola above Taormina.


  1. ^ Parish records of St. Andrew's Church, Hartburn, Northumberland
  2. ^ ""A Very British Family: The Trevelyans and Their World"", Laura Trevelyan. ISBN 978-1- 86064-946-2
  3. ^ http://www.thepeerage.com
  4. ^ Parish records of St. Andrew's Church, Hartburn, Northumberland.
  5. ^ Death Certificate of Edward Spencer Trevelyan.(1854 Q3 Morpeth 200)
  6. ^ Will of Catherine Ann Trevelyan (Probate Newcastle-upon-Tyne, December, 1877)
  7. ^ Daughter of Florence's aunt, Beatrice Trevelyan and Ernest Perceval
  8. ^ Will of Florence Trevelyan Cacciola Trevelyan refers to a book of letters dated 1881 -1883, written from abroad to her father's cousin SirCharles Edward Trevelyan, who had inherited the Wallington Estate
  9. ^ http://www.italiannotebook.com/local-interest/florence-trevelyan-taormina/
  10. ^ Newcastle Courant newspaper, August 2, 1890
  11. ^ The Colonna Park and Municipal Gardens; additional land was given to the town by Dr. Cacciola
  12. ^ Giacoma Gandolfo, Lady Florence Trevelyan, una nobildonna inglese dell'Ottocento e la sua incantevole seconda patria Taormina, 2013; Cinzia Aloisi, Florence Trevelyan , 2013; film, Florence the Lady of Flores, directed by Giacoma Gandolfo, 59th Taormina Film Festival, 2013
  13. ^ Will of Florence Trevelyan Cacciola Trevelyan, pp. 17, 23 (in the English translation)
  14. ^ Julian Trevelyan, "Picture Language by Philip Trevelyan"

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