When I moved back up to Santa Barbara, I was champing at the bit to get up to Franceschi. Honestly, I had only been there a couple times in the past, which is partly why I was so eager to really permeate this place. I had vague memories of it being a very unique spot. Though some memories are laced with the oddities and illusions of time, these memories were 100% accurate.
The park overlooks the city. Almost the entire city. You get a full panorama, and the eucalyptus trees add an extra dimension with their shapes and heady scent. There is a grassy spot to the right of the parking lot which you can hike around and sit in. The panorama spreads around and on clear days the view defies English-language modifiers. Suffice to say that the experience is calming and invigorating all at once.
In the grassy area, overlooking the city, is a bust of Francesco Franceschi Fenzi (his full name). It's sort of his own private Mount Rushmore, so to speak, on a very miniature scale. There is a hike from the road, and many people hike up that way to the carved rock.
There is Franceschi house, to the left of the parking lot and down either a ramp or stairs. The house is boarded up. However, you can walk around and read the various plaques. He was awareded a Congressional Medal for bringing many tropical plants to the area and his work and research on this; one of the plaques tells of this.
The house was then sold to another owner who made changes to it and added his own touches and history, which you can read about on the house. Currently it is deteriorating and needs a face-lift and then some. This link tell you a little about the house: http://www.pearlchasesociety.org/franceschi-house.html.
I watched the last sunset of 2010 from Franceschi, and the thought of that moment still brings a sparkle and smile--a good way to herald in new promise.
Santa Barbara, being a relatively small city, you can hear the whistle of the trains from this perch.
Franceschi Park is in the hills, and there is a very high fire hazard, so there is no smoking up there. A sign is posted to that effect, so please be respectful.
There are a couple of picnic tables, and a path you can walk on which lazily invites you into a woodsy stroll. It goes downhill, which means you have to hike back up.
Time for Franceschi: 15 min-1 hour. Nothing there for children, but a nice interlude for a family and a peaceful snack, a romantic setting for holding hands, or for some alone time with yourself and a book, or, if you bring your playlist, maybe a piano sonata.