Tuscany: Teatro del Silenzio with Andrea Bocelli, Florence and Chianti region
Coordinates / 43°46'60.0"N 11°15'00.0"E
Country / Italy
Region / Florence
Population / 382 000
One cold February evening found us stuck in traffic. Another working day was coming to an end, the streets were covered in snow, impatient residents wished to get to their warm houses as soon as possible. Suddenly, the soothing tenor of the famous Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli sounded in the car. "Time to say goodbye" - he sang sweetly. Indeed! I decided to fulfil my cherished dream and go to the concert "Teatro del Silenzio" in a heart of the Maestro's hometown of Lajatico, in the province of Pisa, Tuscany.
I was lucky to remember about my dream in advance. Tickets for the event were released in February and were completely sold out online within a few hours. Such interest as this was caused by both: big name of Italian tenor and the uniqueness of the event.
The whole point is that the Theatre of Silence, an open concert hall in the middle of the picturesque hills of Tuscany, is the hometown of the Maestro Andrea Bocelli. Only once a year in summer, the Icon shares his stage with a company of his famous friends and colleagues in Lajatico.
To create a unique concert stage "Theatre of Silence" modern artists were invited. The scenery itself was installed on an artificial lake and only local frogs remained singing their songs until the next summer's event. If one is quick one can grab a ticket, the cost of each will be around 80-400 euros, depending on the sector. Usually, the online fun club announces to its subscribers the time and place of sale. Otherwise, the price of the tickets from ticket touts increases significantly, sometimes reaching very extortionate amounts.
Although it was only February, I had already booked the hotel, found travelling companions and a guide with a car. Obviously, a driver was needed because it's hard to resist the pleasure of tasting wines from the cellars of the world-famous Chianti wine area. Thus, when tickets were obtained and the guide found, there was the question of where to leave our bags, because the program was so intense that the sleeping arrangements were not planned.
We learned that Lajatico is a very quiet provincial town but still wanted to stay in the middle of the action, closer to art galleries, shops and other tourist attractions. Thus, the choice fell on Florence.
Florence wins hearts! For lovers of history, architecture, art, gastronomy and possible magic - can one imagine a better place! Its stone pavements saw such great representatives of humanity as Dante, Giotto, Giovanni Boccaccio, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli, Raphael, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Amerigo Vespucci, Galileo Galilei. This being only a fraction of the full list of prominent sons of Florence. And yes, there is the history and beauty everywhere, in every brick. This land is magical, and its fruits are unique.
Unfortunately, our acquaintance with Florence was short lived. But even a brief glance is fascinating: views of the northern Apennines, the unique architectural form of the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) by Filippo Brunelleschi, the famous Ponte Vecchio - the oldest bridge over the Arno river which was long ago popular among butchers and frequented by jewelers nowadays. This list also includes the buildings of the 14th century. Among these is one of the largest European art museums - the Uffizi, with its collection of paintings, which were first collected by the Medici family in the same century.
One can see famous works of art such as: "David" by Michelangelo, "Judith with the Head of Holofernes" and "Marzocco" by Donatello, "Hercules won Cacus" by Baccio Bandinelli, "Neptune Fountain" by Bartolomeo Ammannati exposed for everyone's enjoyment in the open air in the Piazza della Signoria near the Uffizi. Opposite the gallery is the Loggia Dei Lanzi with its famous stone canopy. The Loggia was built in the 15th century for meetings and receptions of the Florentine republic, and now it has become a museum and decorates the city square. Here you can find statues depicting ancient mythological heroes, one of the most famous - "Perseus with the head of Medusa" built by Benvenuto Cellini, or a few metres away there is the building with the tower, named Palazzo Vecchio and built in the 13th century. This former government building was meant for the seat of priors after it was given to lords, and later to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo I. I am sure it would need many academic hours to understand all the intricacies of historic Florence. Especially because of the many conspiracies, poisons, the life of mother of Louis XIII - the Queen of France and a native Florentine Marie de Medici, as well, or her stepmother Bianca Cappello, who got her nickname "witch" because of her cunning and imperious temper.
The day of the "Theatre of Silence" concert came. In the morning, our friendly team of women met Sergei. And by the end of the evening, he was both our driver and guide showing us the sites of Tuscany. We fully trust his taste and were correct to do so. The very first stop in the itinerary turned out to be the nice Florentine provincial town of San Donato.
Here we stopped for a famous tender steak Florentine in a comfortable restaurant Trattoria La Toppa.
Anyone who has tried Florentine steak knows that the meat of this kind of stake is taken from the front loin carcases of young bulls and is cooked over charcoal.
The breed of cow Chianina is extraordinary and beautiful. It has been well-known since the ancient Etruscans period.
After lunch, our journey continued through the many farms which fields were all planted with either vineyards or silvery olive trees, where the hills are decorated with branches of the cypress trees that mirror the appearance of church candles.
Suddenly, near the road our attention was attracted by a group of young people who were enthusiastically carving something out of white Carrara marble, creating a light cloud of white dust.
They turned out to be the students of the local Art Institute, who had won a piece of marble and were creatively cutting off all the unnecessary pieces.
By the way, Carrara town, where one of the most valuable white marble is produced is also located in Tuscany in the Apuan Alps, about 100 km from Florence.
Julius Caesar made Carrara marble fashionable. In Rome, this variety of marble was used for the construction of patrician's houses and public buildings.
The famous Michelangelo's "David" statue is made from the blocks of white Carrara marble, which is now exhibited at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence.
Our route took us to the region of the Sangiovese grape - the wine area "Chianti Classico". The most valuable beverage of the area is considered to be a dry red wine. At least 70% of its formula is the legendary Sangiovese grape, which translates from the Latin as "blood of Jupiter". The wine area "Chianti Classico" consists of vineyards situated on the slopes of the Tuscan hills between Florence and Siena. The grapes have their distinctive flavour due to the peculiarities of the local soil and climate. This wine has four letter mark DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) on each bottle. This label guarantees the highest category of wine, its geographical origin, and production methods.
We took the opportunity to be a guest at one of the local wineries in the "Chianti" region. The history of the winery "Fattoria Montecchio", near the town of San Donato begins with the couple Maria and Ivo Nuti in 1973.
They renovated and furnished the main villa according to their taste, revived neglected vineyards, repaired old cellars and built a new one. Additionally, they prepared an old furnace for the production of clay objects, reviving the ancient traditions of pottery. Following current trends in the region, since 2004 the vineyard owners have mastered a new kind of activity - green tourism by opening their doors to guests.
Now on the farm, any traveller can not only buy wine, olive oil and pottery in the shop of the winery but can also stop for the night, stroll through the picturesque vineyards, go wine tasting or down to the wine cellars to study the history and technology of the production of the legendary wine "Chianti Classico".
Of course, our curiosity led us into the cool cellar, where the mystery of the transformation of ordinary grape juice into the valued worldwide intoxicating burgundy coloured beverage takes place. Our attention was drawn to the cellars with oak barrels of various sizes, containing young "Chianti Classico" as well as more mature wine, made from selected grapes and aged for at least 24 months known as " Chianti Classico Riserva"
Here we know that time passes quickly. Despite the fact that the distance from Florence to Lajatico is 95 km, which can be covered in just 1,5 hours by car. We were aware that we spent all day on a road. As soon as the clock approached 18:00 we mutually decided to go to the concert, which was about to start four hours later.
The 10-15 km journey to Lajatico was on a fairly narrow road where our car got stuck in the heavy traffic caused by the upcoming event. Fortunately, the tranquillity and beauty of the Tuscan countryside brightened the boredom of the heavy traffic.
In the parking area allocated for the vehicles of visitors, it was very crowded because of the number of cars and people. The distance between the parking area and the outdoor amphitheatre concert stage is a couple of kilometres which can be travelled on foot with the exception of VIP guests, who were able to park closer to the amphitheatre. Imagine 10,000 people in high spirits, having arrived from the far corners of the earth marching in a single stream feeling the spirit of the Tuscany evening and with anticipation of the beautiful music to come.
The sun disappeared behind the horizon, a full moon appeared in the sky, the guests took their seats according to the pre-purchased tickets. On the stage the huge figure of a giant was illuminated - a stunning part of the installation "Presences", created for the "Teatro del Silenzio" from used materials by the creative Naturaliter team.
A chorus of bells rang out. The great writer, director, actor and Florentine Giorgio Albertazzi read a moving speech, which was supported by the master of the stage Andrea Bocelli along with his sons. Thus begun the eight annual "Teatro del Silenzio".
On this warm July evening, well-known musicians were accompanied by the symphony orchestra Teatro Carlo Felice of Genoa under the control of the outstanding conductor Marcello Rota.
The major voice of Naples Pino Daniele was singing on the stage that night.
British dancer, actor, mime, teacher and choreographer Lindsay Kemp still a youthful in his 75 years deeply touched each soul in the hall, causing the full range of emotions felt by everyone witnessing his outstanding performance.
Dancers Emanuel Pironti and Francesca Malacarne, as well as experimental theatrical dance troop "Pomarance".
Italian accordionist Mario Stefano Pietrodarchi showed brilliant bandoneon skills while performing the best works of the Argentine tango maestro Astor Piazzolla.
Ethnic Italian pianist and vocalist Peter Chincotti came to Tuscany from his native New York to sing the great song "Goodbye Philadelphia".
Other featured artists were: Ricardo Cocciante, Alessandro Longo, Simona Molinari, Anastasia Petrishak.
We certainly fell in love with Tuscany and "Teatro del Silenzio", so decided to go back again in 2014. And as usually you are welcome to follow and see how it went.