The abundance of history and literature is one of the most intriguing characteristics here in Val d’Orcia. The clay hills are infused with tales of long gone times and adventurous heroes, and one of my favourites is the story of Ghino di Tacco, the gentleman bandit who lived in the second half of the 13th century and is one of the Val d’Orcia’s best-known figures.
His kingdom was the isolated and impregnable fortress of Radicofani, not far from La Foce, perched like an eyrie high up on the bleak clay hills.
Do our homes and gardens speak of us, reflecting our cultural and aesthetic memories and revealing our attachment to sentiments and emotions, past and present? If so, what led to the making of La Foce? What exactly did Iris Origo have in mind when she first came to the bare clay hills of Val d’Orcia and how did she realize her dream of a garden (always her priority compared to the house) in which to find refuge from the dust and heat and bareness?
Now, of course, Val d’Orcia is a byword for unspoiled countryside, cypress-lined roads and picturesque villages nestled in rolling hills. But not when Iris and Antonio Origo first arrived.
It must have taken a great deal of imagination and daring to plan and execute a garden on such a large scale in such a hostile environment. So what memories did Iris draw on, and who helped her carry out her plans?
A quick look at the gardens of her cosmopolitan childhood is surprisingly revealing.
In Images and Shadows, her autobiography, she herself talks of the three houses (complete with gardens) that played a major role in her life, each one representing a different aspect of her character and cultural education, each one linked to the different nationalities to which she belonged and to a specific part of her past. All together, these three very different homes give us a glimpse (not more, she was a very private person) of a multi-faceted, incredibly cultivated and unexpectedly modern personality.
America, Ireland and Italy. Westbrook, Desart Court and Villa Medici.
Every year by the beginning of November, our lemon trees need shelter from the winter frost.
As one of La Foce‘s traditional hallmarks – and my personal favourite due to the zesty, delicate aroma they spread through the summer breeze – the scenographic terracotta lemon pots are scrupulously looked after all year round.
That is why during Winter we keep them in the Limonaia (orangery), a shelter designed exclusively for their maintenance and designed by Pinsent in 1933 after eighteenth-century models.