A master in the heart of Chianti
Midway down the Via Senese, the country road that takes you from Florence to Siena is a magical spot, the world of Carlo Chiti and his “terracotta” creations. The garden expands up the hill side; jam packed with his works of art, vases, plaques, tables, and statues. Beautiful life size statues and busts of famous Renaissance characters are everywhere. I walk past a lithe figure of a young girl, think of Botticelli’s “Primavera”, as she stands unperturbed in the mist of the slight chaos. Little angels blow kisses and adorable cocker spaniels watch a serious small boy who seems to be lost in his own thoughts. I walk uphill on a small path where I pass Dante and a roman emperor, both looking very stern.
This is Sig. Chiti’s world, right here he has everything he needs to make his objects, he sits on the raw material, as the clay from this area is optimal to use for the terracotta. He has dredging machines to refine the soil, huge mixing bowls to “impastare” or mix, and the ovens to bake them. From his work shop he develops his ideas first by sketching the designs, once satisfied he will skillfully carve out the form which will be used to mold the clay. He tells about how he left a job teaching art to be able to do what he loved best, working the” terracotta”. Literally translated it means baked earth, and throughout the centuries Tuscany has been utilizing the mineral rich clay to make tiles, flooring, vases, bake ware, and many other architectural and household items. In Tuscany you see it everywhere, from the rooftops, to the huge vases used to store the olive oil. They are all crafted using the same raw materials and technique from the 1200’s?...The Duomo and many other historic buildings still have the original roof tiles and flooring, which is also known as “cotto Fiorentino”. Mr. Chiti explains how the clay changes and why, he uses the soil from the nearby hills, refining it until it is almost a powder. He then mixes it with water in huge mixing bowls where it looks like gray play dough, then molds it in his forms and lets it set. It is then prepared for baking, where he explains of the importance of not under or over cooking the clay, as well as how the high mineral content in the soil turns it from gray to its reddish brown shade.
His clientele varies, from the locals who need a planter or vase for the garden, to the foreigners who want something more grandiose to be shipped back home. Often he gets special commissions for statues, but also does small plaques with a family crest or name.
The next time you will be in Tuscany, stop in the heart of Chianti Classico, pull over and spend some time walking in this wonderful garden admiring the work of a Tuscan artist.
Sandra Cemulini Luxury Vacation Specialist