Benedetta Origo, Morna Livingston, Laurie Olin and John Dixon Hunt
312 pages, 116 color and 39 black-and-white illustrations, 3 maps, $49.95 cloth
The gardens and estate of La Foce constitute one of the most important and best-kept early 20th-century gardens in Italy. Amid 3,500 acres of farmland in the countryside near Pienza, La Foce, with its sweeping views of the Tuscan landscape, 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.
The garden is a green oasis in the barren Siena countryside. Situated in the Val dOrcia, 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 includes a historical essay and memoir by the daughter of La Foces creators, 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 delight armchair travelers, gardeners and those interested in Tuscan culture.
University of Pennsylvania Press
Originally published on October 25, 2001