Somewhere Under the Tuscan Sun
It’s not very politically correct in Italy, I know," says Silvio (who asked that his last name not be used) as he slips through the doorway of the 1930s Tuscan farmhouse that he and his family recently restored, "but I love rationalism and this era of Italian design—fascismo. There is something warm yet solid about the architecture."
Silvio, who works as the creative director for an Italian luxury products brand, says that about seven years ago his family started coming up to the Maremma, a relatively quiet patch of the southern Tuscan coastline, to escape Rome on the weekends. "It’s best in the winter," says Silvio’s wife, Desi. "A little cold, but bellissima."
Silvio, who admits to being a bit of a fetishist when it comes to modern design, says he was ecstatic when he learned, through a friend, that one of the old farmhouses designed by Marcello Piacentini as part of a Fascist land reclamation and agricultural demonstration project was available for sale. Known as Podere 43, the house is one of 55 that were built on drained marshland. Each was intended to showcase the latest modern agricultural techniques and functioned as a kind of self-sufficient mini-farm. The houses featured pigeon coops, pigsties, a cheese-curing house, a grain silo, a bread oven, as well as a stable attached to the living quarters that boasted an innovative central trough for easy bovine feeding. "What more could you want!" exclaims Silvio, thrumming his hand along the limestone wall of the old stable.
As it turned out, they wanted a bit more. The house, which has obvious connections to Art Deco and some of the warmer southern expressions of modernism, had been largely unchanged since the 1930s, and lacked the space and accoutrements necessary for a weekending family of four. So, working with architect Maria Claudia Clemente and her Rome-based architectural studio Labics (founded in 2001 with Francesco Isidori and Marco Sardella), Silvio and Desi embarked on a complete renovation and restructuring of the house with the aim of preserving the structure’s integrity while transforming it into something unique.
From a preservationist perspective, Clemente’s work was highly invasive. She began by stripping out the interior down to the bare stone—a beautiful, light-colored limestone variety quarried nearby. Along the back of the stable, which was attached to the house so that the original farm family could milk the cows on winter mornings without going outside, the architect sheared off a large wall and created a glazed rectangular living/dining room that opens up the house to the surrounding farmland.