Hello, I'm the Ginkgo Biloba! "Ginkgo" comes from Japanese and means "silver apricot", the color of my seed; while "Biloba" comes from Latin and means "divided into two flaps", referring to the shape of my leaves, which resemble fans. I am an ancient, prehistoric tree, more than 250 million years ago: as the fossil finds tell, I saw the dinosaurs and survived the Ice Age. I come from China where I lived along the Blue River, and I landed in Italy in 1750 at the Botanical Garden of Padua! I am very resistant to cold and heat, pollution and bad weather. I am a symbol of rebirth, having also survived the blast and the violent radiation of the Hiroshima bomb. In addition to being a very particular tree, I am also beautiful: in autumn my hair is covered with a wonderful golden color and I can reach a remarkable height, up to 30 meters. I belong to a DIOICA tree species, that is, I can be male or female: if in your garden you want to plant me, you will have to be sure that the seeds are masculine, otherwise on the ground you will find fruits with a very unpleasant smell.... For more than 5,000 years the ancient Chinese have discovered that by infusing my leaves you can prevent physical and especially cerebral aging: that's why they call me "long-life elixir".
You have just passed in front of the large spa building that was inaugurated in 1936. You should know that here were cared for the only members of the I.N.F.P.S. (National Fascist Institute of Social Welfare): more than 500 people a day, at alternating periods between males and females; while in the building of S. Elena located near the Villa Selvatico, the spa care could also be carried out by other citizens.
In 1943, with the outbreak of World War 2, the plant was transformed into a nursing home for soldiers who had contracted tuberculosis. In 1946 the plant became a fully autonomous spa facility, owned by the INPS: it was like a small village; where nurses, sludge, massages, doctors, waiters, cooks, carpenters, plumbers worked there... employing a lot of people in your country. However, the property was closed in 1993, after ten years of crisis, due to the development of other spa hotels. I hope, in my long life, to see it running again!
I cannot forget to tell you about the importance of the ancient sweat cave of St. Helena, excavated inside the trachite right in the Hill that bears the same name, and which used to be called "Mount of the Stove". The guests of the INPS and the other citizens went there to breathe the precious vapors that came from the thermal water at different temperatures: in fact, the three areas of the cave are called Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise; just like in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. This precious environment today is closed and abandoned, but it remains a "place of the heart" for all of us: a natural monument, unique throughout Europe of its kind, which deserves to be recovered and enhanced.