A rediscovery of the Grand Tour
I was lucky when I arrived in Italy as I landed in Florence in the heart of Tuscany. This region became my home and it held me, during a lockdown, during periods of learning and solitude and finding my way I discovered connections. Connections with people but also with places. I was introduced to the Villa la Posta in Monteriggioni one early summer's day last year. It was a moment in which time really did stand still. I remember the introduction to the place via the host, who took us around the building and the garden, telling stories from the past. He told stories that some may say quietly and secretly, especially those that involve Mussolini and how he came to visit once in 1923, invited by the nobleman of the villa at the time. The table that was placed for his welcome, still sits beautiful and silent in the garden, down below the Etruscan stone trough and past the round tables set in stone for the dictators entourage, carefully placed close enough to watch but far enough away not to hear the conversations that must've taken place down there around that stone table, of the most simple and beautiful design.
Many other stories were told that day. But I remember clearly one in particular. I had mentioned that I was hoping to find a space for my studio, to develop my work, a place to create and teach. I was shown The Embassy, which housed a grand tall fireplace and an aedicule from the 16th century, all very impressive and beautiful but the humble idea that I walked around with for my space was something more simple, a place to grow upon quietly. The ideas were simple. The dream which had been discussed over quiet dinners in London over the previous winters, were talks of Lemons and terracotta, of crickets and the quiet Tuscan stone. So we walked around and I saw in each space something new, something wonderful. We were getting ready to leave when the host said, 'well there is one more place I would like to show you' as though it was an afterthought. He took us through to the back part of the house, beyond the smaller dining room, with the deep sunken fireplace, and through a little door to the area where the staff would've been, where the big kitchen was housed and the grand meals prepared. Walking on the honeycomb tiles past the kitchen and around a corner the host stepped down into a dark space with a dirt floor and eventually to open the giant doors which would bring in the light and as he did that and the light spilled in he said "This is the Lemon House". I took a quick breath in on those words and stopped for a few seconds, then breathed in the Lemon House, and the vast space in front of me now filled with light. High ceilings full of dust stood before me and old magazine and the original wooden cart which was used to bring the lemon trees inside during those frosty months sitting quietly to the side.
This is where the lemon trees had sat in silence and still over the winters in the protective dim light and I just stood there thinking and feeling this scene. It resembled Picasso's studio in Paris, I immediately thought, and in that moment, the only words which I could find and which sat in my mind unspoken and precious, 'this is my studio'.