Introduction to Spannochia
There is always the smell of woodsmoke. There is always the stubborn flavor of olive oil, at all hours. There is always the itch from the straw, which the winter zephirs lift in great plumes from the floor of the stables and blow into any place my clothes come together. There is always the barley dust from the feed, which adds a grit to the sound of my hands rubbing together, for warmth. After all of the introductions have been made, after a few off-color jokes, when the novelty has worn off and the work has lost its quaint charm, finally I feel welcome at Spannochia.
The castle where I sleep is a collage of plaster and stucco, brick and stone. The tower, an eleventh century ogre which rises gloomily from the heart of the compound, stands watch over the landscaped terraces and crested doorjambs of the villa, grumbling tepid warnings and adjusting its erect posture. Inside its ashen bowels are an art studio and several floors of fencing supplies, sandbags, beehouses, deerskins festooned from antique threshers and a mammoth, ancient loom which slumbers on its upper floor like a meat-drunk dragon. The tower is dark and bare. In contrast, the rest of the villa is honeycombed with ochre, sunlit hallways, seasoned hardwood and a managery of vaulted hearths and cozy alcoves. Ambling through Spannochia is like dreaming through a bus ride; the distance covers itself and you are always surprised at where you have arrived. The outer grounds are a quilting of gardens, fields and woodlands, peppered with pigpens and the occasional manger, pimpled with tiny stone structures and crumbling, cater-cornered wells and girdled with cobblestone walls and fences strung with iron or current to keep the pigs and horses in and the wild boars out. The latter stretch for hours along the well-worn footpaths of this 2000 acre estate in Tuscany’s fertile foothills, where I will spend the next few weeks rising with the sun and bedding down against the narcotic warmth of the fireplace.
Dublin and London were a great time, but I’ll get back to those. This place is another world.