THE RECOVERY OF A PLACE
Four years ago I had the pleasure of taking a trip to the heart of the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany. I was invited there to visit the ruins of an absolutely fascinating old farmhouse. The owners, she from Gorizia and he from Venice, a couple long engaged in the food and beverage industry, had told me of their intention to open an agro-tourist restaurant with a few welcoming bedrooms and offer high-quality repast while respecting the land and the environment.
The building, although in terrible condition, transmitted unique images to me and I could perceive a potential renovation of great quality: stone, brick and wood at the centre of a valley surrounded by forests, with a few contemporary lights off in the distance. The place was magic and seemed to come from somewhere back in time.
Last year, at the time of my second visit, the worksite was well advanced, but there was still a lot of work to be done.
The renovation had turned out to be very interesting, both for their architectural and technological design. The architect in charge was very careful to pay attention to the needs of his clients, operating in a discrete fashion, without falling into overly trendy fashions or using especially recognisable stylistic elements. The rather sensitive approach of the project found continuity in the technical and utility elements and in the end was reflected in the choice of furnishing.
The heating was installed through the walls and radiates warmth uniformly using a system that seems invented exactly for the place, for which the original stone and brick walls were rendered slightly thinner only where necessary. All the materials used with related to bio-construction: the layer of straw in contact with the wall, the coil of copper tubes and the walls covered in natural lime, clay and barley straw. The choice of clay coating was dictated by aesthetic considerations, but they were anyway natural and hygienic products possessing highly technical qualities. The ventilated roof was built with solid fir beams, crossed and blocked with hardwood pegs, avoiding the use of glue and nails.
When I returned one month ago, the agro-tourist restaurant had already been built in respect of tradition, using natural materials that were not altered by paints or protective coatings. The wood was oiled and the stones were bush-hammered or left cut. The evening meal was brightened by candles and a few soft lights and everything reminded one of a monastic simplicity made up of a few essential elements. The furnishings in the bedrooms and in the dining room follow clean lines, and although featuring a mixture of styles, each object seems to have occupied its own proper place forever. Old-fashioned benches and renovated tables have been skilfully juxtaposed with Friulian chairs with traditional or contemporary design, such as those by Walter Toffoloni, all left rigorously in a natural state. The building, interpreted with wisdom and enthusiasm, had once again achieved its proper soul.