Tuesday, August 7, 2012
In the heart of the Val D'Orcia there's a place that has seen 500 years of history, and yet sits quietly buzzing in the sunshine with no visible scars from the past.
La Foce is a Tuscan estate, made up of an old villa, extensive farms and a garden. But at it's heart it is a truly glorious garden with some lovely buildings to set it off.
The original villa was built in the XVth century as a wayside tavern for pilgrims on their way from Siena to Rome and then became a part of the estate of the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala of Siena. In 1924, wanting to use their wealth to develop an estate in poor, rural Southern Tuscany, Iris Origo (an Anglo American) and her husband Antonio Origo bought the villa and surrounding 7,000 acres and set out not only to restore it, and build farms on the estate, but also to design their dream garden. Designed by the English landscape architect Cecil Pinsent over 10 years, the garden combines levels, colors, and textures to create a dream space full of bees, butterflies, lavender, lemons and boxwood.
La Foce was not always so peaceful. In the Second World War the Origos took in refugees from the Allied bombings in Genoa and Turin and cared for the children through the ugly and violent Allied advance up through Italy as the Germans retreated. You can read the story of Iris' daily struggle, and simple successes, in her war time diary War in Val D'Orcia.
But today you'd never know La Foce had seen such a dreadful period during and right after the war. Wandering through the courtyards and gardens I never wanted to leave. If you are driving south of Siena on a Wednesday afternoon (the only time it's open) take a moment and stop.