April 1st,1939. The spectre of an all-out war in Europe is looming. The Anglo-American writer and philanthropist Iris Origo – then owner of the La Foce estate in the Val d’Orcia – has just written the following words in her diary:
‘Chamberlain’s pronouncement about Poland has been received with unexpected moderation in the press and with some enthusiasm privately – as being likely to put a brake on Hitler.
A country neighbour (small farmer – a shrewd, sensible, elderly man) has just been to lunch, and has made no bones about expressing his disgust at recent events. He is particularly indignant at Mussolini’s phrase about peace being “a menace to civilization”. “What about Sweden and Norway?” he says. “Aren’t they more civilized than us? And happier?” (This is unexpected, he would not have said that five years ago.) He tells us that all his peasants, like ours, are terrified.’