Italy landscape. Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages. Where architecture is “what the place expects”

Italy landscape.  Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages.  Where architecture is "what the place expects"

I was lucky enough to set foot in Tuscany for the first time relatively late, at the age of twenty-seven. Actually I had been to Florence, on a short trip towards the end of high school. But I had never opened the doors of that landscape, I did not know the chromatic scenes of its hills, the soaring villages, the geometries of the cypresses. I call it luck because it is thanks to the baggage of life and knowledge we have that we are able to evaluate the exceptional nature of a work, be it man or nature. As kids, beauty is contained in a feeling, certainly gratifying, but no more. Adolescent visions of a landscape, a painting, an architecture, or the reading of a book, are certainly formative but destined to become something else: to become us, precisely, to the detriment of their very existence. Instead I, who at the time had a wait tailored on the basis of my knowledge of art and literature, had the gift of seeing it fall apart, inadequate as it was to account for the scenario that opened up in front of me. . I went up from Rome by car along the Cassia, towards that Val d’Orcia which occupies a large part of this volume.

Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages. Vignoni bathroom

And as the high Lazio lessened the pressure of its green, my amazement grew at the wave motion of the landscape, soft profiles of hills that chased each other as far as the eye could see, dense with crops or bare, marked by the plow or signaled by the symbolic presence of farmhouses, gatherings of cypresses, hamlets inhabited by unreachable lives. Everything was in the distance, as in dreams: and this feeling of unreality was multiplied by the energy of the colors, which alternated the tones of yellow, pink, ocher and deep brown, to break here and there in the vast calm of the green. But as surprising as they may be, the colors of this palette did not give life to the same sensation that we feel when faced with a fresco of classicism.

Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages. San Quirico d’Orcia

That incredible landscape was not so much painting as architecture. More than a visual background, it was the base, the founding ground of man’s actions and his life plans. Were they villages or cultivated fields, that fragment of the earth’s crust had offered itself to the modifications that the human being would have made there, with the pact of necessary settlements: not a threat of overwhelm but a promise of civilization. An agreement that had been respected, since the balance of full and empty spaces, the position and size of the villages, the vineyards, the villas, the cottages, the white roads, the olive groves and the scattered churches were offered. like a hardly modifiable wonder. Thus, at the end of the journey, the words of a great American designer, Louis Kahn, came to mind: “architecture is what the place expects”. Later I went back to those lands several times, and I keep coming back.

So I got to know single magic of it, like the cloud roof of San Galgano or the prodigious shade of the oak of the Checche. The view of the whole was softened, as happens, in the pleasure of individual experiences: the combined flavor of a pecorino from Pienza and a red from Montepulciano, immersion in the waters of Bagno Vignoni as in a painting by Piero della Francesca, the column sonorous voices of passers-by, that perfect Italian, with its obsolete adjectives and excess subjunctives, which is worth a Mozart andante played in the street by students of the conservatory. The admiration exercises that this territory allows are always new, and certainly represent a relief from the prevailing blame of our season: but even after so many years the astonishment, the disbelief of the first time remain intact and poignant. Therefore enviable, in those who have yet to live them.

Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages. The Bosco della Ragnaia

Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages is the third volume of the Landscape Italy series, which goes on newsstands, at the beginning of each month, with the Republic and National Geographic, for 12 months. In support of the texts and images, the volume offers specific unpublished video insights, specially created and accessible through QR CODE placed inside the book. The four videos relating to Sicily are the ones embedded in this text. Here is the editorial plan of the series.

1) Precious Umbria, from Città della Pieve to Montefalco

2) Sicily, Baroque Mediterranean

3) Terre di Siena, the perfect Middle Ages

4) Puglia, the Daunia between myth and nature

5) The other Lake Como

6) Gallura and Barbagia, beyond the sea

7) Langhe, between mists and traditions

8) Tuscia, city of tuff and gardens of delight

9) Veneto of water and land, from the Euganean Hills to Polesine

10) Ligurian west of stone and sea

11) Garfagnana, land of wolves and brigands

12) In the Marche, between history and Infinity

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