Roar­ing pas­sion, in the heart of Tus­cany

Avion Luxury International Airport Magazine - - TRAVEL -

Hair in the wind, sun kiss­ing the cheeks. With an im­per­ti­nent air, the Lan­cia Aure­lia B24 spi­der speeds along. On board Gass­man and Trintig­nan: the bit­ter­sweet side of the eco­nomic boom in the stills of “Il sor­passo” (di­rected by Dino Risi, 1962). Be­hind, Rome, in­dif­fer­ent, and on­wards, to­wards ad­ven­ture and the Via Aure­lia, tak­ing the curves of the Romito, sus­pended be­tween precipices and flashes of calm seas, from Castiglion­cello to Livorno. To un­der­stand its beauty, one must look with a cu­ri­ous eye. Only then will the land­scape ex­pand and be­come a di­men­sion of the soul. The many faces of Tus­cany are of­fered in a kalei­do­scope of sub­tle splen­dours. The heart rules the head. Be­yond the film. Our jour­ney be­gins in the south. The Tyrrhe­nian Sea em­braces the promon­tory of Ar­gen­tario along a se­ries of ter­races cul­ti­vated with vines, olive groves and small bays. Here lies a se­cret trea­sure trove of exclusive vil­las, the realm of celebri­ties and lovers of sail­ing; be­yond the half-moon is­land of Gian­nu­tri, and then Giglio and Porto Er­cole, a fish­ing vil­lage, se­cluded with court­yards and small squares, pro­tected by ro­bust fortresses. The busy coast­line re­laxes among the si­lences, in­ter­rupted only by the green wood­pecker, in the green ex­panses of the Mediter­ranean maquis of the Parco dell’Uc­cel­lina, which is filled with the aro­mas of myr­tle, ar­bu­tus and ju­niper. The idyll of the Maremma, gen­tle and ma­ter­nal, as de­scribed by Car­ducci, is only dis­turbed by ca­vort­ing wild horses, by the dis­tinc­tive calls of the “but­teri” (cow­boys) and by the sway­ing gait of oxen, im­mor­talised in the works of the artist Fat­tori. The road un­rav­els and flanks, in the dis­tance, a ver­dant rock that ap­pears to swim to­wards Cor­sica: the is­land of Elba, which is fringed by beaches, pic­turesque vil­lages, nat­u­ral har­bours and small ports. We travel fur­ther north; mar­itime pines, bent over by the wind, stand amidst the magic of the Gulf of Baratti, which sur­rounds na­ture re­serves, mu­se­ums and the

le­gacy of the Coast of the Etr­uscans. Pop­u­lo­nia, the necrop­o­lis of San Cer­bone, the sul­phurous water of the ter­raced pools of the Mulino di Satur­nia, the me­dieval pro­file of Pit­igliano. Fur­ther on lies San Guido, with its soli­tary Or­a­tory. The “du­plice fi­lar”, double row, of aus­tere cypresses file along the road from Bol­gheri to­wards Ma­rina di Castag­neto with its beach bor­dered by pine forests. To­wards Livorno and the bustling Mer­cato delle Vet­to­vaglie (food mar­ket), the cac­ci­ucco, the Fosso Reale (Royal Canal) and net­work of bridges and canals, marked by in­co­ercible scars. Driven by a pow­er­ful pas­sion linked to the leg­end of the au­to­mo­bile. Among cliffs perched over the sea, cas­tles and coun­try­side, on the bends of the race track of the Hills of Mon­ten­ero, fore­run­ner of to­day’s Grand Prix (in 1937, the GP of Italy, de­sired by Galeazzo Ciano) and the set­ting of five vic­to­ries for Nu­volari. Frag­ments of mem­ory. The Mille Miglia, evoca­tive gathering of the en­gines of a glo­ri­ous past. Along the old Via Cas­sia, an­other con­sular road, up and down. Round the bends of Radi­co­fani, the gate­way. From here the views ex­tend from the Apen­nines to the sea, with Lake Trasi­meno in the dis­tance. Along­side lies Ab­ba­dia San Sal­va­tore, the heart of Mount Ami­ata, in the border land, all rocks and Grance, and crossed by Via Fran­ci­gena, which runs along gen­tle hills where sul­phurous water bub­bles amidst the stone build­ings of Bagno Vignoni. The scent of the truf­fles of San Gio­vanni d’Asso lingers in the air, here is the land of the fa­mous Brunello, the wine of Montalcino. Our gaze is fixed, mo­men­tar­ily, be­fore the aus­tere grace of the Pi­azza Grande in Mon­tepul­ciano. The his­tory of the race resur­faces. Shin­ing body­work, in sparkling colours, con­ceals a roar­ing heart. Pis­tons pound. The en­gine’s “horses” chomp the bit. Bu­gatti, Bent­ley, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, BMW, Mercedes, MG, Porsche, Fer­rari, As­ton Martin. The le­gends of speed. Pure adrenalin. One bend, two, along un­du­lat­ing landscapes that dis­ap­pear then reap­pear, pass­ing through tur­reted vil­lages in­hab­ited by si­lence. Val d’Or­cia, both harsh and gen­tle, is re­vealed as pal­ette of shin­ing colours, painted by the touch of Piero della Francesca, among Castel­n­uovo Ber­ar­denga, San Quirico d’Or­cia, Pienza and Mon­tepul­ciano, un­til it blends into the ochre hills of the Crete Sen­esi. Far, but not too far, from the boom­ing yells of Pi­azza del Campo, Siena, dressed up for the palio, among com­pe­ti­tion and pop­u­lar ri­valry. In short, the Tus­can spirit, free and vi­sion­ary. High on a hill stands the dense mul­ti­tude of tow­ers made of ter­ra­cotta and stone of San Gimignano, sur­round­ing the con­trada of Se­nese and Floren­tine Chi­anti. Gen­tle rolling hills, wind­ing coun­try roads, old home­steads and farms, among the earthy colours of rocks and the green hues of cypresses and olive groves, which guard the sagas of great aris­to­cratic fam­i­lies: Ri­ca­s­oli, Mazzei, Anti­nori. Landscapes and wines to savour and en­joy at the slow pace of times gone by. Pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion for gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans, Bri­tish and Ger­mans who rent or pur­chase houses and lux­ury vil­las here, who ap­pre­ci­ate qual­ity, pri­vacy and se­cu­rity and love the fash­ion, the ex­cel­lence of the lo­cal prod­ucts, but also the art and cul­ture. From Cer­taldo to Mon­terig­gioni, Radda to Vol­paia, to the abbey of Coltibuono, the banks of the Om­brone; from Greve to Castel­lina in Chi­anti, from the Are­tini Hills to the Pisane Hills. The splen­dour of Pi­azza dei Mira­coli and, pro­tected by the grandeur of the Apuan Alps, moun­tains that gleam white with mar­ble, the lively joy of glow­ing Ver­silia, among sandy shores, well-groomed beaches, art gal­leries and bars, and on­wards to Florence, teem­ing with houses, streets, squares and mon­u­ments char­ac­terised by an age-old charm. In the shadow of Brunelleschi’s dome, or along Ponte Vec­chio, with its sparkling gold­smiths’ bou­tiques, sto­ries are told that re­flect in the Arno, of when the Mille Miglia came to town. The race cars de­scended from San Gag­gio in full fourth, skip­ping a cou­ple of gears, and en­tered, at full revs, Pi­azza di Porta Ro­mana, among bales of hay and en­thu­si­asm. Fur­ther ahead lies the strip of tar­mac to be climbed to­wards the peaks of the Apen­nines. Pure pas­sion. Gen­tle Tus­cany, Italy’s liv­ing heart.

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