Monday, June 25, 2018

In Montisi

Annamaria in Chiantishire

Thanks to the good offices of John Lawton--fellow crime writer and dear to many of us MIE bloggers, I have had my first visit to that part of Tuscany preferred by visitors from the British Isles: the Crete Senesi, the hills southeast of splendid Siena.  Nicknamed Chiantishire because of its density of English population.

Montisi is a beautiful medieval hill town.  The atmosphere is nothing short of splendid. Viz--

What impressed me most about the ambience of Montisi were the relationships between the locals and the expats--whether seasonal or year round.  I saw no divide between the resident Italians and the resident imports.  They all seemed capable of sliding between English and Italian, sometimes within the course of a single sentence.  Much more telling: they took a kind and caring interest in one another--who was sick, who needed extra company because his wife was away, whose chid was nervous over a university application. All the kinds of things one might expect in the life of a small village, but with none of the "us/them" dichotomy typical of say a town in Florida where northerners show up only in winter. With the people of Montisi, there is only "us."

My host was Ugo Mariotti who was a producer and casting director for the movie "Don't Look Now" with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.

Lawton (my term of endearment for him) told me about the artists and writers who call the town their full or part-time home.  Among Ugo's neighbours are painters Liz Graham-Yooll (who also illustrates children's books), Elizabeth Cochrane, and Sue Kennington.  And sculptor David Mackie.

Mackie's magnificent bird house.  

Mackie's avian neighbor, but presumably not a resident of the above.

Mackie's sculpture of Caliban, which figures in John Lawton's
brilliant "Friends and Traitors."

In addition to John, Montisi has hosted authors Rupert Thomson and at one point a few yers ago, our own Zoe Sharpe.

The area is home to Bruce Kennedy, a world renowned maker of harpsichords and clavichords.  He is also the executive Director of Picolo Accademia, a music school in Montisi, which jointly with my hometown favorite Julliard School of Music, hosts an annual festival of baroque performances.  I am missing it by a week.  Next time, I plan to be there to hear the music.  

In the meanwhile here is a sample of the playing of this year's star performer: Skip Sempe'--playing one of Kennedy's harpsichords:

Alla prossima volta!  Until next time, Montisi!

Upcoming for Annamaria:

June 26: 7:30PM
Summit Free Public Library
75 Maple St
Summit, NJ 07901

July 10: 7PM
The Chappaqua Library
195 S Greeley Ave
Chappaqua, NY 105146

July 19: 6:30PM
171 Main St.
Manasquan, NJ 08736


  1. Beautiful ghost town! (Not a single living person in any of your snapshots... HOW did you arrange that?)

    1. EvKa, Three partial explanations account for the full ghost town look: Most important--one of the great charms of Montisi is that it has no droves of tourists clogging up the place. Second, many of my shots had a person or two in them, but I chose ones that show its beauty and historic ambience at its best. Then there was the fact that they were taken during a long walk at midday--during which I was the mad dog and Lawton was the Englishman. Almost everyone else was staying in doors at that hour.

  2. What a wonderful, beautiful place to visit!! It's also excellent to hear that this sort of places still exist in the world.

  3. Susan, I would say, from your photos, that you see the Japanese equivalent often.

  4. No question why you must be the most popular guest/visitor on the planet. You have only nice things to say about everyone and everything...except of course your Bro. :)