We are here in Tuscany in a hill town sitting on a ridge that separates the Val d’Chiana and the Val d’Orcia. some of the most beautiful countrysides in Italy. We have been here in spring when the poppies carpet the roadside and orchards and in summer when there are fields of sunflowers. Now it is fall and the crops are mostly plowed under except for the vineyards of course and the olive groves.
In the Siena town hall there is a series of 14th century frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti on the effects of good and bad government. The beautifully tended countryside around Siena represents a well ordered society. The frescoes are badly damaged due to salt stored in the cellars of the building. but are still powerful expressions of a concept of effective governance.
The land today looks much as it did in Lorenzetti’s images. The careful tending of the land and the tendency to mixed agriculture with vineyards, olive groves and varied field crops coupled with the rolling hills, interesting rock outcroppings and old fortresses and hill top villages makes for a stunning patchwork. Everywhere you look there are arresting patterns to rivet the eye. At this time of year, some of these patterns are stark and arid.
Some of the landscapes show outcroppings of rock sometimes compared to moonscapes.The towns themselves offer texture and color that blends into the landscape. Burnt siena is a color created from ochre and umber, iron oxides from the local earth and is used in the paints and washes on local buildings. Landscape and townscape seem parts of a whole. These pictures are of Montepulciano where we are staying; that is Tuscany’s only volcano Mt. Amiata in the background.Occasionally the ruin of an old fortress stands guard over the landscape.Perhaps the most famous pattern is this view from La Foce.While the winding cypress at La Foce are arresting, there are countless other scenes that blend color and texture in ways that grab the eye.The landscape is stark this time of year, but the vineyards are lush and heavy with grapes. These are the grapes of the local wine, Nobile di Montepulciano.Just as a vine creates an engaging pattern, so too can a single olive tree as a frame for a hillside scene or by itself.
The strong patterns, arid and stark or lush and green are everywhere you look; these fields lie just below the walls of Montepulciano a couple block walk from our apartment.This is the view from our tiny terrace. What a beautiful part of the world.