Chasing the (fragrant) rose
“A rose by any name smells as sweet” – Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 1594
When Andrea di Robilant wrote “Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside” he was continuing the chronicling of the Mocenigo estate he began in his bestseller “A Venetian Affair”, a biography of his gggg grandmother Lucia Mocenigo. It was through her journals he learned of the rosomanie (rose mania) period in Paris, France, in the early 1800s and her horticultural experiences within it. That book ended with a description of an unnamed fragrant rose as the sole legacy of his ancestor’s glorious estate.
His almost footnote reference to an unknown rose caused quite a stir in Europe’s heady garden elite that sent him on a years long journey to track down its name. Was it a long lost China rose, one thought to be extinct, or a new unknown rose? That question propelled him through exquisite gardens and the almost encyclopedic memory of top gardeners to conclude that . . . well, to tell you the conclusion would ruin the story, so let’s just say he resolved the question to his liking.
What his liking was and his pitfalls along the way are why you should read this book. That is, assuming you like old roses and the history related to them. If you don’t, you probably will by the time you finish this engaging book.
Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by Andrea di Robilant
Illustrated by Nina Fuga
Alfred A. Knopf
Book edition April 8, 2014