Friday, 14 January 2011

A Place In The Sun

TV programmes would have you believe that after you've found your place in the sun you bask on the patio with a glass of Chianti. Wrong! It's true we've had some fine and warm weather already and the year's barely two weeks old. For us that's meant a bit of a switch from internal maintenance - Tenuta Savorgnano is 300 years old after all - to getting out and working on the land. Apart from things that always need attention like clearing leaves, pruning back unstoppable laurels and chopping wood, we've been hacking back the flora generally and opening up some superb views of the surrounding hills. Clearer definition of the contours of the terrain revealed south facing terraces which must once have been cultivated. We intend to gradually reinstate the terraces with their supporting stone walls for horticulture as well as aesthetics.

Today the smaller house of Tenuta Savorgnano is split into three apartments but in the past it was as a shop known as "La Botteghina" - the little shop. It served a collection of disparate hamlets scattered over a wide area but connected by 'vicinale' - narrow unmade roads and foot lanes. Recently we discovered an old foot lane between our car park and the old church leading down to a wider vicinale which criss-crosses a beck and joins with lots of old lanes. It's over-grown now and a bit of a precarious route as evidenced when we emerged from it covered in sticky-buds and spiked with thorns. We'll open it up at some point as it would be a great place for the guests to start a walk.

For a break from work we took a walk along some of the old lanes and discovered long abandoned cultivation - intact terraces with old woody vines. We also found off-the-beaten-track hamlets with tumbledown houses and barns and just occasionally the odd restored house. We felt nostalgic for the old ways of the contadini (subsistence farmers) - but it must have been a very hard life. Occasionally, you meet older locals and snippets of information about this life emerge. It feels like an obligation now to think of some way to preserve their story. The pictures here are of a little bridge that crosses the beck near Savorgnano and the hamlet of Monticello which someone is attempting to revive.

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