Abbadia d'Ombrone

Abbazia di Vallombrosa

Villa Arceno

Bardini Garden in Florence

Bernard Berenson

Boboli's Gardens

Il parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo

Villa Bottini

Castello di Brolio

Villa Cahen

Villa della Capponcina

Villa Capponi

Villa Medici at Careggi

Villa di Catignano

Cecil Ross Pinsent

Castello di Celsa

Villa Certano Baldassarrini

Certosa di Pontignano

Villa di Cetinale

Villa Chigi Saracini

Villa Farnese (Caprarola)

Gardens in Fiesole

Villa Gamberaia

Villa Garzoni in Collodi

Villa di Geggiano

Villa Grabau

Villa Guicciardini Corsi Salviati

Horti Leonini di San Quirico

Villa I Collazzi, Firenze

Iris Origo

L'Orto de'Pecci (Siena)


Villa I Tatti

Villa Medicea La Ferdinanda

Villa La Foce

Villa La Gallina in Arcetri

Villa Lante

Villa La Petraia

Villa La Pietra

Villa La Suverana in Casole d'Elsa

The Medici Villa at Careggi

Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze

Garden of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Firenze

Villa Medicea at Poggio a Caiano

Medici Villas in Tuscany

Villa di Monaciano

Giardino degli Orti Oricellari | Firenze

Orto Botanico, Siena

Villa Orlandini in Poggio Torselli

Il Palazzone

Villa Palmieri and Villa Schifanoiai

Villa Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente

Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza

Villa di Pratolino

Villa Reale di Marlia

Villa San Donato in Colle (Bagno a Ripoli)

Villa Santini Torrigiani

Villa di Vicobello

Villa Vistarenni

Il Vittoriale degli Italiani


 
Gardens in Tuscany
             
 

 

A view across the garden towards a horizon dominated by the volcanic peak of Monte Amiata


“All that I can do is to foster within myself something that is not merely fear, resentment or bewilderment. Perhaps it might be useful to try to clear my mind by setting down, as truthfully and simply as I can, the tiny facet of the world’s events which I myself, in the months ahead, shall encounter at first hand.”

Iris Origo
album Surroundings
       
   

Iris Origo

   
   

Iris Margaret Origo, Marchesa of Val d'Orcia, DBE (15 August 1902 — 28 June 1988), was an Anglo-Irish biographer and writer. She lived in Italy, and devoted much of her life to the improvement of the Tuscan estate at La Foce, near Montepulciano, which she purchased with her husband in the 1920s.
Origo was the daughter of William Bayard Cutting, the diplomat eldest son of a rich and philanthropic New York family, and Lady Sybil Cuffe, the daughter of Lord Desart, an Irish peer. Her parents travelled widely after their marriage, particularly in Italy, when her father contracted tuberculosis. Following her father's death in 1910, Iris and her mother settled in Italy, buying the Villa Medici in Fiesole, one of Florence's most spectacular villas. This meant that she grew up in one of the great centres of the Italian renaissance, a palatial dwelling built by Michelozzo for Cosimo de Medici, the founding father ofthe most celebrated family in Florentine history. There they formed a close friendship with Bernard Berenson, who lived not far away at Villa I Tatti. Iris was briefly enrolled at school in London, but was largely educated at home, by Professor Solone Monti as well as a series of French and German governesses. [1]
In 1918, Lady Sybil Cutting married the architectural historian Geoffrey Scott, who later embarked on a relationship with Vita Sackville-West. The marriage was to last until 1926. Following their divorce she married, as her third husband, the essayist Percy Lubbock. She died in 1943. Her second marriage reportedly failed because she was emotionally needy and had married a man who suffered from neurasthenia.

[Lady Sybil] had a brief affair with Bernard Berenson and then astonished everyone by marrying Mary Berenson's protege, Geoffrey Scott, the fragile and neurasthenic author of The Architecture of Humanism. The marriage was not happy. No one could outdo Sybil where neuroses were concerned, and she spent more and more time in bed on one pretext or another. [2]

Personal life

Iris Cutting travelled to England and the United States in order to be launched in the society of both countries. In 1922, she first met Colin Mackenzie, a young Scottish businessman working in Milan; a romantic, epistolary affair was followed by a lifelong friendship. On 4 March 1924, Iris married Antonio Origo, the illegitimate son of Marchese Clemente Origo. They moved together to their new estate at La Foce, near Chianciano Terme in the Province of Siena. It was in an advanced state of disrepair but, by dint of much hard work, care and attention, they succeeded in transforming it.
Like many of the estate's buildings, the garden of La Foce was designed by a now almost forgotten British architect, Cecil Ross Pinsent (1884-1963). He arrived in Florence at age 24, joining his friend Geoffrey Scott on a study-tour of Tuscan architecture. Scott had recently been appointed secretary/librarian to the famous expatriate American art historian Bernard Berenson, and although he and Pinsent had almost no practical experience (Pinsent appears to have designed but one garden in the south of England), they were soon put in charge of the new buildings and plantings at Berenson's Villa I Tatti in Settignano. After that Pinsent worked for members of Berenson's sophisticated and rich circle in and around Florence. He made a garden for the philosopher Charles Augustus Strong; another, at Bellosguardo, for Edward VII's ex-mistress Alice Keppel (the great-great grandmother of Camilla Parker Bowles); a third, for Benedetta's grandmother, Lady Sybil Cutting, at the Villa Medici.[3]
Antonio and Iris Origo had a son, Gian Clemente Bayard (aka "Gianni") (24 June 1925 — 30 April 1933), who died of meningitis at the age of seven, and two daughters, Benedetta and Donata. It was following the death of Gianni that Iris Origo embarked on her writing career, with a well-received biography of Giacomo Leopardi, published in 1935. The Observer said: "Her book is a monument to scholarship — the literary and historical background is painted with consummate skill, and a pattern of good taste." She followed this in 1938 with a biography of Cola di Rienzo, the 14th century populist revolutionary and would-be dictator in Rome.


War years

During the Second World War, the Origos remained at Villa La Foce and looked after refugee children, who were housed there. Following the surrender of Italy, Iris Origo also sheltered or assisted many escaped Allied prisoners of war, who were seeking to make their way through the German lines, or simply to survive. Her account of this time, War in the Val D'Orcia, was the first of her books to be a popular, as well as a critical, success.

Post WWII

After the war, she divided her time between La Foce and Rome, where the Origos had bought an apartment in the Palazzo Orsini, a Renaissance palace built on top of an ancient Roman theatre, and devoted herself to writing. She and her husband, Antonio Origo, bought the palace in the early 1950s.[6] The palazzo has an illustrious past. Construction of the Theatre of Marcellus, which could seat 20,000 people, was begun by Julius Caesar but it was completed in 11BC by the emperor Augustus, who named it after his favourite nephew. It was abandoned in the 4th century AD but later turned into a fortress and, later, into a family palazzo, constructed on the massive travertine blocks that make up the Roman theatre, known in Italian as the Teatro di Marcello.
It passed into the hands of the Orsini family, after which it is named, in the 18th century.

The Origos also holidayed at Gli Scafari, the house built by Iris' mother at Lerici on the Gulf of Spezia.


Death

Antonio Origo died on 27 June 1976. Iris Origo died on 28 June 1988, aged 85.

   
   
Villa Medici in Fiesole


   
     
The Villa Medici is a patrician villa in Fiesole, Tuscany, Italy, the fourth oldest of the villas built by the Medici family. It was built between 1451 and 1457.
The villa owes its fame to Lorenzo il Magnifico who inherited the property in 1469 following the untimely death of his brother. The new master of the house turned the residence into a gathering place for artists, philosophers and men of letters such as Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola and Poliziano. The quadrangular building is a typical example of the 15th-century edifice, with square serena stone windows and broad loggias looking out over the surroundings. The villa remained the property of the Medici until 1671. It subsequently changed hands several times, and in 1772 was sold to Lady Orford, the sister-in-law of Horace Walpole. In the 19th century it was owned by the artist William Blundell Spence and in 1911 was purchased by Lady Sybil Cutting. Here Iris Origo spent fourteen years in an environment of exceptional privilege, comfort, and wealth.
In 1918, Lady Sybil Cutting married the architectural historian Geoffrey Scott.
Many friends of the family at Florence were other rich exiles, sophisticated and intellectual if somewhat rootless, and the author of this diary has confessed that she herself felt uncertain about who she was and where she belonged. Marriage to an Italian eventually made it possible to put down roots, and in 1924 the new couple bought a large estate in the heart of Tuscany, where her war-time diary War in Val D'Orcia: An Italian War Diary, and other books were written.

Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze


 

Villa Medici in Fiesole

Enlarge map Villa Medici in Fiesole



Villa La Foce

The estate of La Foce was located a hundred miles north of Rome, between Siena and Lake Trasimene. La Foce means 'the meeting point' as the fifteenth-century hostel was built at the intersection of the valley's two main roads. The Val d'Orcia had been much neglected over the centuries, laid bare by soil erosion and desolated by wars between rival city-states. The new owners set about restoring it to life. Fifteen years of hard work resulted in the establishment of fifty farms, each of about a hundred acres, all grouped round one central fattoria where the Origo family lived and where all the general decisions were made about what crops to grow and what agricultural methods to adopt. Each tenant farmer held his individual farm by the usual Tuscan system of mezzadria, sharing all produce with the proprietor but depending on him for equipment and capital.[4]
There was no garden at La Foce when the Origos arrived, just the remains of a giardino Inglese which had probably been planted in the nineteenth century for ease of maintenance. In the early days water was scarce; the well barely provided enough drinking water and any excess went immediately to the farm. Soon after moving in, however, Origo began creating a small garden at the back of the villa, the furthest point from the busy fattoria courtyard. This was her private space, her bulwark against the vast, inhuman landscape. She later recalled how, on first vie\ving the property, she was overcome by a longing for gentle Florentine hills or green English fields - and most of all for a pretty house and garden to come home to. It was this that Pinsent helped her create.[4]
Through the wood, a path joins the garden and the family cemetery, considered one of Pinsent’s best creations.

Villa La Foce, Pergola covered with roses and wisteria

While the Origos were on their honeymoon Cecil Pinsent was employed to install some basic comforts, adding a skylight to illuminate the central room, incorporating fireplaces, a bathroom, a library and sitting room.
Once the villa was habitable Pinsent moved on to oversee the restoration and expansion of the rest of the estate. As a lifelong bachelor he was easily absorbed into the family and after his friend and partner, Geoffrey Scott, married Lady Cutting, Pinsent would join the Origos at the Villa Medici for the family Christmas. In the early years of the Origos' marriage he travelled with them on several occasions and would reside at the villa for months at a time while engaged in design projects.

'The Origos briskly, pragmatically, set about restoring the infrastructure of the entire estate. They implemented progressive social ideals as well as far-seeing farming methods which employed innovative agricultural practices. The estate’s farm-houses, eventually more than 50 in all, were renovated and/or completely rebuilt; the main villa was refurbished; and a school and dispensary were created, the latter named after Gianni, the Origo’s first-born, who had died of meningitis at the ageof seven.'


Enlarge map of Villa La Foce
     
In creating La Foce, Origo worked with Cecil Pinsent, her childhood friend, reprising the classic gender partnership in which he provided the architectural structure which she then clothed in colour, scent and texture.
Origo was an unusual woman; she lived through extraordinary times and responded with immense imagination, courage and compassion. Born in 1902 the only child of Bayard and Sybil Cutting, Origo had a cosmopolitan childhood traveling between her American grandparents in Long Island, her British grandparent:~ in Kilkenny, the London home where her father acted as secretary to the American ambassador and long stretches at the Villa Medici.
Since her father's dying wish was that his daughter should be educated at home, Origo spent a lonely childhood in the company of her mother's intellectual Anglo-Florentine friends. When Pinsent came to design the garden at Villa Medici, despite the eighteen year age gap, he proved a godsend to the solitary child. On his death in 1963 Origo wrote to his family: 'he was, I think, my oldest friend; all the memories of childhood are mingled with him.'
At the time that Aldous Huxley was writing Those Barren Leaves, Origo was already rebelling against the insular community which he so viciously lampooned in his roman-a-clef Ultimately she chose 'a more authentic Italian existence than any of her compatriots when, in 1924, she married a handsome, illegitimate, Catholic aristocrat, the Marchese Antonio Origo. In a situation worthy of a Henry James novel, he was impoverished, worldly and ten years older than the innocent heiress. Needless to say, her family attempted to stop the union. Bernard Berenson trekked down the hill from I Tatti to advise her to keep her American citizenship, while Mary Berenson confided to her diary: 'there is a sort of feeling abroad that she cannot be long happy with that anti-intellectual young man'. Having failed to prevent the marriage, Lady Cutting retreated to her sick bed and was absent from the wedding.
As predicted, the union was often strained, not least by his infidelities, her infidelities, the death, in childhood, of their beloved son and the political situation which left them with differing allegiances in the Second World War. Nonetheless the marriage survived and within it the Origos lived creative and productive lives. Spurred, perhaps, by the example of her indolent, hypochondriacal mother, the newly married Origo determined to do something useful. She envisioned social work, her husband had the instinctive Italian love of the land; they both wanted to leave the city, so, infused with Virgilian fantasies, they settled on a career in farming. Privately, Origo hoped for an austere villa with a long cypress-lined approach, a deep loggia, a courtyard, a well and a fountain garden surrounded by overgrown box hedges. Her husband wanted something more challenging.
On discovering that most of the available properties around Florence were already 'neat and fruitful', having been cultivated since the days of the Decameron, the Origos looked further afield.

 

 


La Foce estate

 


Antonio and Iris Origo at La Foce with their second daughter Donata

In the Val d'Orcia, a depopulated area in southern Tuscany, the Origo's found the 3,500 acre estate of La Foce. A forlorn desert of barren clay hills rising from a parched valley, the estate had been mismanaged for centuries; only a fraction of the land was good, only a fraction of that was cultivated, the forests were neglected and the twenty-five outlying farms were in varying states of disrepair - some were virtually inaccessible while most contained several dozen inhabitants crammed into a few dark, airless rooms. To the south stood the black, basalt cliffs and towering fortress of Radicofani, to the west was the summit of Monte Amiata, an extinct volcano which blocked the sea breezes but did nothing to stop the bitter tramontana wind from the north and the hot dry scirocco from the south.
Despite this unpromising prospect, the Origos were enchanted:
To live in the shadow of that mysterious mountain, to arrest the erosion of those steep ridges, to turn this bare clay into wheat-fields, to rebuild these farms and see prosperity return to their inhabitants, to restore the greenness of these mutilated woods - that, we were sure, was the life that we wanted.

The period of June 1943 – June 1944 was historically catastrophic for Italy: prolonged vacillation over declaring neutrality, or siding with the Allies, created a political vacuum in which civil war erupted. The printed portion of Iris’s diary covers this bleak phase and records her microcosm, caught in the crossfire of conflicting battles and a confusion of combatants. Both the steeply rocky, chestnut-covered slopes of Monte Amiata and the overgown woods of the Val d’Orcia were replete with soldiers and refugees of diverse nationalities, as well as a strong partisan movement; the inhospitality and wildness of the terrain rendered it an excellent hiding place. There was no shortage of wounded and starving to attend to and the Origos, along with surrounding peasant farmers, showed a deeply humane disregard for political persuasion; they did whatever they could in response to all pleas, often dire, for help. The numbers of children on the estate also swelled with an influx of children given refuge from the heavy bombing in Turin and Genoa.[7]

Refugee children from Genoa and Turin

The Origos briskly, pragmatically, set about restoring the infrastructure of the entire estate. They implemented progressive social ideals as well as far-seeing farming methods which employed innovative agricultural practices. The estate’s farm-houses, eventually more than 50 in all, were renovated and/or completely rebuilt; the main villa was refurbished; and a school and dispensary were created, the latter named after Gianni, the Origo’s first-born, who had died of meningitis at the age of seven.[7]

After expanding La Foce's fattoria and making the house habitable, Pinsent was asked to redesign the formal approach to the villa. The public road, which had passed right beside the villa's front façade, was diverted to create an elegant fore court_ This was screened from the new road with an imposing wrought-iron gate, whose double piers framed the front loggia. Origo promptly planted the short approach avenue with cypresses to give an imprimatur of age. [4]
In 1933 Pinsent added the chapel and cemetery which he considered one of his finest works. Situated in woodland at some distance from the house, the cemetery was enclosed by cypresses and walls, against which grew pittosporurn, and it was planted by the Marchesa with blue periwinkle and roses amongst the graves so that it formed a garden, a thing unknown in Italy at that time.



 
  Villa La Foce, cemetery, where Iris Origo and her husband are buried, alongside Gianni.



Rome




The Palazzo Orsini is grafted on top of the first-century Theatre of Marcellus


Palazzo Orsini, which Iris Origo rented and then bought in the 1950s, is situated in the centre of Rome. The palazzo, with a garden full of fountains and orange trees, is built on top of the still-standing stone and marble shell of the Theatre of Marcellus, dating from the 1st Century BC, which resembles a mini Colosseum.
Construction of the Theatre of Marcellus, which could seat 20,000 people, was begun by Julius Caesar but it was completed in 11BC by the emperor Augustus, who named it after his favourite nephew.
It was abandoned in the 4th century AD but later turned into a fortress and, later, into a family palazzo, constructed on the massive travertine blocks that make up the Roman theatre, known in Italian as the Teatro di Marcello.
It passed into the hands of the Orsini family, after which it is named, in the 18th century.
In 2012 Palazzo Orsini was for sale for 26 million euro, roughly $39 million dollars.. The 11,000 square foot house/apartment grafted on top of an ancient Colosseum. Palazzo Orsiniwas the most expensive house for sale in Rome, and one of the most expensive in Europe.[6]
 

Theatre of Marcellus

 

A shaded area of the palace's gardens


Gli Scafari


The Origos also spent holidays at Gli Scafari, the house built by Iris’s mother at Lerici, on the Gulf of Spezia.
Antonio Origo died on 27 June 1976, and Iris Origo herself died on 28 June 1988.
 
   



Cecil Pinsent and his gardens in Tuscany. Edited by M. Fantoni, H. Flores and J. Pfordresher. Edifir, Florence 1999. ISBN 8879700790.

Villa La Foce Estate | La Foce - 61, Strada della Vittoria -53042 Chianciano Terme - Siena | www.lafoce.com

Richard Maxwell Dunn, Geoffrey Scott and the Berenson Circle: Literary and Aesthetic Life in the Early 20th Century, Edwin Mellen Press, 1998

Tuscany | The Val d'Orcia





Works

Allegra (1935), a short life of Byron’s daughter

Leopardi A Study in Solitude (1935/1953), a biography of Giacomo Leopardi

Gianni, a privately printed memorial to Iris's son

Tribune of Rome: A Biography of Cola di Rienzo (1938), on the 14th-century, Roman revolutionary

War in Val d'Orcia (1947), a personal memoir of the last years of Fascism and the liberation of Italy

The Last Attachment (1949), on Byron and Countess Guiccioli

Giovanni and Jane (1950), a children’s book

A Measure of Love (1957), biographic essays

The Merchant of Prato (1957), on the life and commercial operations of Francesco di Marco Datini

Images and Shadows (1970), an elegiac autobiography

The Vagabond Path (1972), an anthology

The World of San Bernardino (1963), a life of Bernardino of Siena

Un'amica. Ritratto di Elsa Dallolio (1982), a memoir of an old friend

A Need to Testify (1984), biographies of Ignazio Silone, Gaetano Salvemini, Ruth Draper and Lauro de Bosis, four opponents of Fascism


[1] Origo, Iris (1970). Images and Shadows. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-5671-6.
William Bayard Cutting, Esq. (1850-1912), a member of New York's merchant aristocracy, was an attorney, financier, real estate developer, sugar beet refiner and philanthropist. He was born to Fulton Cutting (1816-1875) and Elise Justine Bayard (1832-1852). He was trained at Columbia College, as a lawyer, in which capacity he assisted his grandfather, Robert Bayard, in the management of his railroad company. Cutting and his brother, Fulton, started the sugar beet industry in the United States in 1888. He was a builder of railroads, operated the ferries of New York City, and developed part of the south Brooklyn waterfront, Red Hook. He was an outdoorsman and a gardener of great ability.
On April 26, 1877, he married Olivia Peyton Murray (1855-1949), the daughter of Bronson Murray of Murray Hill, New York. They had four children:
William Bayard Cutting (1878-1910), secretary to the US embassy to the Court of St. James's. He married 30 April 1901, Lady Sybil Marjorie Cuffe, daughter of Hamilton John Agmondesham Cuffe, 5th Earl of Desart and Lady Margaret Joan Lascelles. She was the mother of Iris Origo, the Marchesa Origo.
[2] Isabel Colegate. Coming Home to Heroism (part 2) The Spectator 7 October 2000. Book review of Caroline Moorehead's Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val d'Orcia.

[3] At the end of the nineteenth century, the hills around Florence were filled with abandoned villas whose aristocratic owners had gone bankrupt, lost interest, or moved on to Rome when it became the capital of the newly unified Italy. In his 1909 book, Italian Hours, Henry James observed, ‘if one is an aching alien half the talk is of villas'; he also noted that for less than the price of a good painting one could purchase an entire villa, garden and surrounding estate. Outcasts, exiles and adventurers of all nationalities rushed to do this, but it was the English and Americans who focussed on the gardens, and the Americans who had the money to do so in style.
To speak of these gardens as American, however, is misleading. These gardens are infused with an English sensibility and an Edwardian love of formality, though perhaps an American sense of scale and a Puritan suspicion of ornament can be detected in their simple, monumental lines.
Iris Origo was the daughter of William Bayard Cutting, the diplomat eldest son of a rich and philanthropic New York family and Lady Sybil Cuffe, the daughter of Lord Desart, an Irish peer. Her parents travelled widely after their marriage, particularly in Italy, when her father contracted tuberculosis. Following her father's death in 1910, Iris and her mother settled in Italy, buying the Villa Medici in Fiesole, one of Florence's most spectacular villas. There they formed a close friendship with Bernard Berenson, who lived not far away at I Tatti. IIn 1918, Lady Sybil Cutting married the architectural historian Geoffrey Scott, who later embarked on a relationship with Vita Sackville-West, , and Pinsent was hired to work on the garden of Villa Medici. The marriage was to last until 1926.

Gardens in Tuscany | Villa Medici in Fiesole, Firenze
American gardens in Florence. Exploring La Pietra, I Tatti, Le Balze | www.theflorentine.net

[3a] Percy Lubbock was the son of the merchant banker Frederic Lubbock (1844–1927) and his wife Catherine (1848–1934), daughter of John Gurney (1809–1856) of Earlham Hall, Norfolk, a member of the influential Norwich banking family. Earlham, his memoir of childhood summer holidays spent at his maternal grandfather's home was to win him the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1922. He was brought up at Emmetts near Ide Hill in Kent.
He lived at Gli Scafari, a villa on the Gulf of Spezia designed by Cecil Pinsent. Towards the end of his life he went blind. Well-placed socially, his intellectual connections included his Cambridge contemporary E. M. Forster, Edith Wharton ( he was a member of her Inner Circle from about 1906), Howard Sturgis and Bernard Berenson. Other Cambridge friends included the singer Clive Carey.
In 1926 he married Sybil Scott, née Lady Sybil Marjorie Cuffe, making him stepfather to the writer Iris Origo. Sybil was daughter of the Irish peer Hamilton John Agmondesham Cuffe, 5th Earl of Desart, and a widow after the 1910 early death of her first husband William Bayard Cutting, from tuberculosis. Her second husband had been Geoffrey Scott, another of the Berenson circle. Lubbock's terminal coldness with Edith Wharton, from 1933, was occasioned by some unexplained factor concerning this marriage.
He was a good friend of Henry James in James's later life, and became a follower in literary terms, and his editor after his death. Later scholars have questioned editorial decisions he made in publishing the James letters in 1920, at a time when many of those concerned were still alive. Mark Schorer, in his introduction to a reprint of Lubbock's The Craft of Fiction, described him as "more Jamesian than James". The couple lived together in Gli Scafari, on the Gulf of La Spezia, until they moved to Switzerland to escape World War II, where Lady Sybil died on December 26, 1943.
[4] Katie Campbell , A modern pastoral in an ancient landscape - Iris Origo's La Foce, in Paradise of Exiles: The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence, p. 159-161
[5] American gardens in Florence. Exploring La Pietra, I Tatti, Le Balze | www.theflorentine.net
 


Villa Medici in Fiesole

 


Geoffrey Scott and Cecil Pinsent in Battery Park, New York,S August 1929. [Courtesy of Dr John Scott]

[6] The history of the Palazzo Orsini can be traced back more than 2,000 years.
It was built in 13 BC – 85 years before work started on the similarly-styled but more famous Coloseum – and began life as the Theatre of Marcellus.
Named after Marcus Marcellus, the nephew of Emperor Augustus, the open-air auditorium allowed 11,000 spectators to watch dramatic and singing performances.
The 364ft-diameter venue included a vast network of arches, corridors, columns, tunnels and ramps – many of which have survived to the day.
It was an early example of an architectural form that was to become very common in the Roman world and inspire such famous edifices as Rome's Colosseum, pictured above.
The theatre was reconstructed in the Middle Ages, removing the top tier of seating and the columns, and became used as a fortress of the Fabii.
It was allowed to ruin over the next five centuries as a series of noblemen and their families moved in before the Orsini clan made it their home in the 1600s. They built a palace on top of the ruins of the ancient theatre and gave it its current name, Palazzo Orsini.
Iris Origo and her husband, Antonio Origo, bought the palace in the early 1950s.
Read more: information and pictures on www.dailymail.co.uk
[6] 'When Mussolini came to power in 1922 one of the ways he appealed to landowners was by promoting rural development with massive programmes of land drainage, road building and reafforestation. La Foce was part of a consortium of local landowners through which the Fascist government helped finance an eight bed clinic, a primary school and a kindergarten - for which Origo provided the novel luxury of a horse-drawn carriage to transport children from the most remote farms.
In later years Origo took pains to distance herself from the Fascists, but any large estate at the time had to make accommodations with the government, and its efforts at land improvement can only be applauded even if many of its other policies were deplorable_ In any case, Origo was so integrated with the local community that she was spared the petty acts of xenophobia which might have alerted other expatriates to the growing antagonism towards the affluent nations of the west.' [4]
[7] How An Irish-American Writer survived World War II in Tuscany (Val d’Orcia) | www.trustandtravel.com


Bibliography

Caroline Moorehead,, IRIS ORIGO: Marchesa of Val d'Orcia, Boston: David R. Godine
Caroline Moorehead (born 28 October 1944) is a human rights journalist and biographer. Moorehead has written six biographies, of Bertrand Russell, Heinrich Schliemann, Freya Stark, Iris Origo, Martha Gellhorn, and most recently, the life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin (the daughter in law of Jean-Frédéric de la Tour du Pin), who experienced the French Revolution and left a rich collection of letters as well as a memoir that cover the decades from the fall of the Ancien Regime up to the rise of Napoleon III.
Moorehead has also written a number of non-fiction pieces centered on human rights including a history of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Dunant's Dream, based on previously unseen archives in Geneva, Troublesome People, a book on pacifists, and a work on terrorism, Hostages to Fortune. Her most recent work in this category is on refugees in the modern world named Human Cargo, published in 2004. Moorehead is currently working on a new book about 230 French women of the Resistance who were sent to Auschwitz, and of whom only forty-nine survived.[3]
She has written many book reviews for assorted papers and reviews, including the TLS, Literary Review, Telegraph, Independent, Spectator, and New York Review of Books. She specialized in human rights as a journalist, contributing a column first to the Times and then the Independent, and co-producing and writing a series of programs on human rights for BBC television.

Coming Home to Heroism, The Spectator 7 October 2000. Available online. Book review of Caroline Moorehead's Iris Origo: Marchesa of Val d'Orcia (London, John Murray, 2000)

Gianna Pomata, Dalla biografia alla storia e ritorno: Iris Origo fra Bloomsbury e Toscana in Genesis. Rivista della Sociata' italiana delle storiche, pgs. 117-156 (2007)

How An Irish-American Writer survived World War II in Tuscany (Val d’Orcia) | www.trustandtravel.com

Ethne Clarke, An Infinity of Graces: Cecil Ross Pinsent, an English Architect in the Italian Landscape, W. W. Norton & Company (July 1 2013)

This article incorporates material from the Wikipedia articles Iris Origo, Caroline Moorehead, Percy Lubbock, published under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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Villa is Tuscany

This formal cloister offers the quiet tranquility of a private retreat, with numerous attractions, beautiful nature reserves and unspoilt beautiful beaches within easy reach. The most interesting artistic, historical and cultural sites of southern Tuscany are nearby, and are awaiting your discovery. Explore the medieval hillside villages on your way to Siena, marvel at settlements that date back to Renaissance times, try some Pecorino cheese in Pienza, and some wine in Montalcino or Montepulciano, where the refined beauty of the squares and churches blends perfectly with the ancient traditions of its wines.

Hidden secrets in Tuscany | Holiday home Podere Santa Podere Santa Pia

 
 
   

Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia, view from the garden
on the valley below

Il parco dei Mostri di Bomarzo
         
Montepulciano, San Biagio
Montepulciano
Pienza
Parco di Villa Reale di Castello (Villa di Castello) in Florence

   
Certosa del Galluzzo (Firenze)
Villa Gamberaia at Settignano
Boboli gardens in Florence
         
 
The surroundings of Podere Santa Pia, the Val d'Orcia

 

"That vast, solitary, unspoiled landscape charmed and enthralled us: to live in the shadow of that mysterious mountain [Monte Amiata], to halt the erosion of those steep hills, ... mutilated woods green again... that, we were sure, was the life we wanted."

From 'Images and Shadows: Part of a Life' by Iris Origo. page 201