Before La Foce

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.


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