This Conversation tells the story of Villa La Foce – a once derelict farming estate in southern Tuscany that was transformed into a rural Utopia by the writer Iris Origo and her husband, the Marquis Antonio Origo. The Origos tirelessly worked to regenerate the land of their 7000-acre estate, providing work and schooling for the locals and ultimately creating around their villa one of Italy’s most ravishing gardens. Designed by the famous landscape-architect Cecil Pinsent, these ‘open-air’ rooms and terraces look out over mesmerizing views of the Val d’Orcia.
The Origos’ life was far from rose-tinted: their young son died of meningitis and during the Second World War, they put themselves at great personal risk by sheltering orphaned and refugee children, partisans, Italian Jews, and escaped Allied prisoners of war.
In this seminar, we will leaf through Iris Origo’s deeply moving memoirs – War in the Val d’Orcia and A Chill in the Air – in which she recalls the “unending stream of human suffering” that transformed their rural Utopia. Today, though, the gardens at La Foce bear witness to the Origos’ determination to offer hope and life even during the darkest of times, and a Summer Music Festival founded by her cellist grandson celebrates the memory of one of Italy’s great ex-pat women.
Led by cultural historian Kate Bolton-Porciatti this seminar recounts the compelling narrative of La Foce over the last century. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an insight into one of Tuscany’s great cultural landmarks – which is also a featured filming location on television shows such as Succession.
Kate Bolton-Porciatti is a professor of Italian cultural history and music at the Istituto Lorenzo de'Medici in Florence, where she teaches BA and MA courses in the humanities. She also lectures at the British Institute, Florence, and at the Chigiana Music Academy in Siena. Kate has published extensively as an academic and a journalist; she is a music critic for BBC Music and a travel writer for The Daily Telegraph, UK. Before moving to Italy permanently in 2005, she was a senior producer and broadcaster for BBC Arts & Classical Music in London and has won prestigious Jerusalem and Sony Awards for her programs. She did her M.Phil. thesis in Italy, exploring the musical culture of early Renaissance Florence.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.