From Santorini, I headed to Italy.
To Tuscany. The land of the golden light.
I would be staying in Val D’Orcia, literally off the old Roman road, Via Francigena.
Tuscany is the place of Dante,Galileo,Puccini and Michelangelo. A rich artistic legacy that grew from an agricultural base and built a great cultural stronghold before, during and after the Italian Renaissance. It rivaled Florence politically and artistically.
Literally a valley of poetry, it presented a landscape which fascinated the great painters of the Renaissance and the Romantic writers of England and Germany and France. And, she charms us still today with her subtle hues and golden light.
I arrive late in the afternoon. The sun is low in the sky but it still paints the landscape…colors of dry clay and golden earth, hills green like moss and ancient farmhouses dot the landscape.
I am staying in the old stone farmhouse of a working vineyard. The workers are heading in, pulling their carts into an old stone barn, and waving to the guests under the portico. Time stands still in Tuscany. I finish my Chianti and call it a day. I plan on an early start in the morning.
Morning comes and I head downstairs to grab a quick coffee. But in Tuscany, there is no such thing as a quick anything. It is a slow place, a place where life is enjoyed and the simplest of routines are savored. So, in the dining room I have an espresso and fig focaccia, a specialty of the kitchen. I am warned by the staff to be back on time because dinner is pasta shuta, a favorite of mine.
I am off down the road in my rented SUV, my gear stowed in the back. When I say the road, I mean The Road. Via Francigena is a road the Romans built. Centuries old, it winds along the countryside, weaving in and out of the valleys and past the hills that are notched with ravines. My innkeeper has given me directions to some interesting places in the valley and I plan to spend my day meandering. So I wander, shooting images here and there and chasing the light around Tuscany.
And then, I came upon it. “It” being a spectacular place. As I rounded a bend in the road, I saw the old stone farm house perched on top of a hill, sitting like a jewel in an ancient crown, guarded by manicured orchards and spikes of cypress. The farm was the only thing still lit by the afternoon’s fading light. And, it was lit with a wand dipped in gold. As I got closer, I saw the earthy colors of the vineyard melding with the silver grey of olive groves and the graceful cypress. The beautiful palette of nature is before me…the burnt sienna of art classes gone by is a reality on this afternoon. That hazy golden light hangs over the vineyard, touching all the other colors below and seeming to linger past day’s end.
I set up my gear and I know that I am at the feet of the Masters. I am in the middle of the flourishing Renaissance. I look through my lens and sheer poetry comes back at me. I capture my image …the golden jewel farmhouse set in the crown landscape of umbers and greens and silvers. And, I wonder, how can this rich painting of nature be just part of an everyday landscape? But that is the beauty of it and that is the secret of it.
The mystery of Tuscany. A suspended place in time that has never surrendered to progress.
I head back to my lodging, knowing that I have possessed timeless Tuscany for a brief moment with the click of a shutter , the thought of pasta shuta and a glass of Chianti waiting for me.
Ah, Bella Campagna.