The landscape of Tuscany is praised for its natural beauty but few people know that it is actually designed. Val d’ Orcia is an extraordinary example of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times in order to reflect the utopic ideals of good governance. Siena was a sort of ‘commune’ and the Val d’ Orcia a model of sustainable rural development. Lorenzetti painted in the Town Hall of Siena the ideal landscape in 1338-40, as result of the Good Governance; in the Val d’ Orcia it became reality.
The merchants aimed to create a landscape of efficient agricultural units but also one that was pleasing to the eye. The landscape that resulted was one of conscious planning and design, which marked the beginning of the concept of ‘landscape’ as a man-made creation. The Val d’ Orcia bears testimony from archaeological remains of prehistoric settlement, an important role during the Etruscan period and further development during the Roman Empire. The area seems to have been largely abandoned agriculturally in the Middle Ages. In the past thirty-five years or so the farmland has undergone some improvements such as an extension of the cultivated land with the use of machines and intensive agriculture. In 1999 the area was protected as an Artistic, Natural and Cultural Park with the initiative of five municipalities who established a common management body. Since 2004 Val d’ Orcia is inscribed in the list of UNESCO Heritage, and its aesthetics are protected by several regulations.
Last summer Marina Comandini and The Moneteverdi Tuscany organized a three days festival Per Apsera ad Astra at Castiglioncello del Trinoro, in the province of Siena. Several artists from different disciplines were invited to interact with the old village and the historical landscape in which everyone was immersed. My contribution to the festival was an intervention of land art directly on the valley as a question mark to the people living there and to the tourists visiting the area. To whom does this landscape really belong? Who has the ownership of its beauty and harmony? Everything was designed, reshaped, destroyed and finally protected resulting in the valley as we see it now. After millions of years of evolution the natural and anthropologic process of this landscape has stopped, constraining it to resist any human or natural variation and remaining still for the future generations, as a registered product.
Seen from the main square of Castiglioncello del Trinoro, the registered symbol looks like an alien sign into a human landscape but it refers to the whole valley and to the work of many generations of farmers that worked to bring it to such a beauty.
This project was made possible with the support of Monteverdi Tuscany and CBK Rotterdam.