People everywhere associate the cypress tree with Italy. The Etruscans, who were present in Italy for at least 500 years, marked their gardens and cemeteries with it. When the Romans stole their culture and destroyed their civilization, they also planted the Etruscans’ favorite tree in their own gardens.
Perhaps the largest and oldest living tree of any kind is the gigantic cypress tree in Soma, Lombardy. It is thought to have been planted in the year of the birth of Christ, and is looked upon with great reverence. More than 120 feet in height, its trunk is twenty-three feet round. In the Italian climate, a cypress tree’s average height after forty years may be as tall as fifty or sixty feet.
From mediaeval times the coffins of the Popes were made of cypress wood, at least in part; and it is rumored that the doors of St. Peter’s were also made of this wood.
I’ve asked around why Cypress trees are planted in cemeteries. Practicality tells me it’s because its roots grow straight down and won’t disturb anything around it, but lovers of the Italian landscape tell me that the wood is so strongly scented that the tree has been planted around houses, churches and cemeteries in Italy for centuries. Italians believed that the air was “freshened” by the tree, giving rise to the quintessential “Italian landscape.”