Roaring passion, in the heart of Tuscany
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.