Thursday, September 22, 2016

Abbadia San Salvatore, on the slopes of Monte Amiata

 A Town Full of Surprises
Monte Amiata
It is not where most tourists stop on their way around Monte Amiata in southern Tuscany. Abbadia San Salvatore is a township of 6000 souls on the northern slopes of Tuscany's most easily identifiable mountain. Unassuming and ordinary, it is the sort of place you drive through hurriedly, on your way to somewhere interesting.

And yet we stopped: was it that lunch beckoned, or was it that we noticed a sign proclaiming Abbadia San Salvatore as the home of an ancient Bible? Somehow the quest for lunch and our curiosity combined to make us stop. We would discover that this seemingly dull, grey town held several surprises.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Garden at Villa La Foce

Foreigners in Val d'Orcia
Cecil Pinsent's closed green garden at La Foce with its crisp hedges. Monte Amiata is palely visible to the south-east
If you look at the historical black and white photographs on the Villa La Foce website, as backdrop to the depictions of hardworking and celebrating sharecropping farmers, you will see a lunar landscape: harsh, barren-looking hills, and stretches of empty terrain succumbing to the plough for the first time. Today's intensely-cultivated, ordered and verdant sweep of valley and hills with the famous cypress-lined road winding up the hill opposite La Foce were unimaginable 100 years ago. 
Val d'Orcia before the new owners of La Foce intervened

This ostensibly timeless scene has come to symbolise Tuscany, despite the fact that it represents only the area south of Siena, that it is completely man-made and of recent creation, and that its creators were a British garden designer, a British-American woman and her Florentine husband.