Back to the earth

A true Tuscan retreat

Sam Lawley
March 14, 2013

Half hidden amongst the vineyards and olive trees of the Chianti countryside and boasting panoramic views from the commanding summit of a grassy hill, La Tenuta di Sticciano resort offers a holistic alternative to the hustle and bustle of Florence. Founded on the site of an ancient brick-making kiln and steeped in noteworthy history, this remarkable institution offers a complete package: quaint accommodation, wholesome food and artistic stimulation.

 

For good or bad, twenty-first-century Florence is increasingly the locus of a thriving cosmopolitan life, with study-abroad students, backpacking tourists and international shopping chains becoming ever more present in its cobbled streets. In the midst of this busy environment, it should not be forgotten that a seemingly idealised vision of immemorial Tuscany—the land where Italian is spoken, Chianti grapes are tenderly pressed to make wine, and artistic works are discussed and created—still exists a short distance from Florence’s city centre.

 

Since its extensive renovation in 2002, La Tenuta di Sticciano has offered the discerning tourist a retreat off the beaten path. Guests of this agriturismo, or rural bed-and-breakfast accommodation, can enjoy the beauty of the rolling countryside, the pleasures of traditional Tuscan cuisine and samplings of local wine, olive oil, honey and grappa. Summer visitors can even bathe in the sizeable swimming pool beside the main residence, while the bar keeps guests refreshed and contented as the Tuscan sun sets over the rolling hills.

 

What sets La Tenuta di Sticciano apart from many similar rural bed-and-breakfast lodgings, however, is the active role it has played in the shaping of the surrounding countryside. On the grounds lies a huge brick kiln that dates back to 1799. For centuries, this furnace was the place where local clay was fired and made into ceramic bricks and tiles, providing nearby villages with construction materials to build their homes. The enormous structure still stands today and offers a reminder of the geohistorical importance of this estate.

 

Even if the brick kiln is no longer in use, La Tenuta di Sticciano continues to be involved in the world of ceramics, although it has shifted its focus from the industrial processes of brick and tile making to the more artistic endeavour of clay modelling, sculpture, and pottery. It boasts a ceramic workshop where guests and artists can indulge in the pleasures of working with clay. Indeed, in September 2012, a group of local ceramic artists fired up two experimental kilns in the forecourt of the Tenuta. A crowd of 200 people witnessed the elemental magic of fire combining with air and earth to produce the ceramic pieces of art. In attendance was also Betty Woodman, one of the most important figures in contemporary ceramics, who gave a talk on her work and experiences. In October 2012, a group of students from New York University Florence spent a day at the Tenuta, enjoying the simple pleasures of nature, fresh air and traditional Tuscan food, while sculpting clay under the guidance of local artists by the shade of the surrounding forest.

 

Building on the positive feedback and success of these events, La Tenuta di Sticciano has decided to launch a programme of springtime weekend sculpture workshops, details of which can be found in the info box on this page. Those in attendance will be accommodated in the Tuscan vintage-style lodgings, have access to sculpting materials, and be offered guidance from local sculpting artists. Guests will also be able to visit the wine cellars belonging to La Tenuta di Sticciano and sample their wines.

 

Much more than just another rural getaway, then, La Tenuta di Sticciano is a remarkable

institution, offering a veritable collage of what it means to be Tuscan. Within its modestly sized grounds, one will find a concentration of history, artisanal food products, and hospitable people. Indeed, only a short distance from the bustling city life of Florence, life at La Tenuta di Sticciano remains grounded in the tangible reality of Mother Nature. And importantly, in keeping with its history and ethos, guests and artists will soon be offered the opportunity to literally ‘get back to the earth’ by working with clay.

 

 

CLOSE UP/ The portrait

Sculpture workshop

The first edition of these workshops will take place from May 2 to 5, 2013, for a group of 10-20 participants.

 

THURSDAY

Expected arrival from 1pm to 3pm,

followed by a guided visit of the furnace

4pm: THE HISTORY OF IMAGES

The many faces of art: how man has portrayed himself

Length: 2 hours

 

FRIDAY

Breakfast

9am: DESIGN WORKSHOP

Learn to see in three dimensions

Length: 4 hours

1-1:30pm: lunch

4pm: TECHNICAL WORKSHOP

Creating frameworks for modelling

Length: 2 hours

 

SATURDAY

Breakfast

9am: MODELLING WORKSHOP

A technical and artistic workshop on creating clay portrait sculptures

Length: 4 hours

1-1:30pm: lunch

4pm: MODELLING WORKSHOP

Length: 2 hours

 

SUNDAY

Breakfast

9am: FINISHING UP

Preparing artworks for firing

Length: 3 hours

Midday: visit to the cellars of the estate, with tastings and a light lunch

Farewells

 

Price per person for single use of a double room and private bathroom in an apartment shared with others. Includes 3 nights with breakfast and light lunch (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and the sculpture workshop (see programme): € 350,00

 

Price per person for a shared double room with private bathroom in an apartment shared with others. Includes 3 nights with breakfast and light lunch (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and the sculpture workshop (see programme): € 300,00

 

Use of the apartment kitchen is included in the price. Also included is a visit to the cellars with tastings of three wines.

 

For more information on La Tenuta di Sticciano, visit www.tenutadisticciano.it or call 0571/669032.

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