The gardens and estate of La Foce constitute one of the most important and best kept early twentieth-century gardens in Italy. Amid 3,500 acres of farmland in the countryside near Pienza, with sweeping views of the Tuscan landscape, La Foce was the childhood dream garden of the late writer Marchesa Iris Origo. Passionate about the order and symmetry of Florentine gardens, Origo and her husband, Antonio, purchased the dilapidated villa in 1924, soliciting the help of English architect and family friend Cecil Pinsent to reawaken the natural magic of the property. Pinsent designed the structure of simple, elegant, box-edged beds and green enclosures that give shape to the Origos' shrubs, perennials, and vines, and created a garden of soaring cypress walks, native cyclamen, lawns, and wildflower meadows. It is, by all accounts, a remarkable achievement.
Today the garden is a place of unusual and striking beauty, a green oasis in the barren Siena countryside. Situated in the Val d'Orcia, a wide valley in southeastern Tuscany that seems to exist on a larger, wilder scale than the rest of the Tuscan landscape, it is run by Benedetta and Donata Origo, and is open to the public one day a week. La Foce: A Garden and Landscape in Tuscany is a contemplative, multifaceted study of the house, gardens, and estate of La Foce. It includes a historical essay and memoir by the daughter of La Foce's creators, Antonio and Iris Origo, along with photographs, sketches, and a critical analysis of the gardens. The volume not only focuses on the beauty of the gardens themselves and their indisputable merit as fascinating works of landscape architecture but also sees them within the context of both the larger Tuscan topography and the wider landscape of geography and history. The book will be a delight to armchair travelers, trade and landscape architects, gardeners, and those interested in Tuscan culture.
Benedetta Origo is a musician and owner of La Foce; Morna Livingston is Professor of Design, Drawing, and Vernacular Architecture at Philadelphia University; Laurie Olin is a Practicing Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and Principal of Olin Partnership; John Dixon Hunt is Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
A feast to the eyes and an excellent read.