At the junction of Umbria and Tuscany lies the Val di Chiana, a wide fertile valley boasting lovely medieval villages, beautiful rural landscapes and the eponymous Chianina cattle breed, from which the best bistecca Fiorentina is prepared.
When I drop by a village bar in Italy, I often see, hanging on the wall, a black and white photo showing the town’s central piazza filled with lively locals – a scene which unfailingly makes me daydream about the good old days. Then I look through the window, from my table, and get a glimpse of the same town square as the one in the picture, only to realise that things have changed quite a bit: the present-day piazza is either desolate or overcrowded with tourists…
A few months ago, I could have given you a thousand good reasons to visit Sicily – if you needed any. But this number, in my book, has recently gone up to one thousand and one, like in the celebrated Middle Eastern saga.
The latest addition is the Palazzo Butera, an immense and freshly restored Baroque palace located in the heart of Palermo, and which will be home to the exquisite art collection of Francesca and Massimo Valsecchi.
Ah, springtime!… Longer days, blooming trees, twirling swallows and, above all, – I may have mentioned this to you before – my very first swim of the year in the Mediterranean!
This inaugural sea dip usually takes place in April somewhere on the Tuscan coast. This year, though, because of a persistent cold North wind, it looked as if this ritual might have to be postponed to some later date. But having finally decided against any rain check, my family and I tried our luck at one of the South-facing bays on the Monte Argentario peninsula, and found nothing else there than a little patch of paradise…
You never know what life has in store for you… Years ago, when I lived in Florence, I met and became friends with Paolo Fiumi, a then budding architect. At that time, though, I never imagined that some day I would work with Paolo for the refurbishing of a palatial apartment right by the Grand Canal in Venice.
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, Continue Reading →
Years ago, during a dinner in Montalcino, I overheard winemaker Donatella Cinelli Colombini tell the story of her winery. When she started producing her own Brunello wine in 1998, she wanted to hire a young cellar master. So she got in touch with the University of Siena to ask whether there were any graduates looking for a job. And the answer was: No, unfortunately they Continue Reading →