The year began with the village of Castiglioncello being buried in a beautiful snowfall that exceeded anything in recorded history. Over a meter fell in a 24 hour period. As the snow melted and Primavera thawed the earth, an amazing year blossomed at Monteverdi.
Opening of Oreade, Our Full Service Restaurant
In May of 2013, we opened a full service, fine dining restaurant to complement the more casual dining at Caffé Monteverdi. In homage to the enchanting beauty of the region, the restaurant is named Oreade, after the mythological Greek nymphs and goddesses that were believed to populate mountains and forests. This reverence for nature is reflected in the restaurant’s menu, which is dedicated to farm-to-table eating, and sources only the freshest local produce for its recipes. The view over the magnificent valley and mountains of the Val d’Orcia visually maps the distance our food has travelled. Seasonality is fundamental, allowing guests to eat in harmony with the changing landscape around them and with the season’s natural bounty. A terrace in the center of Castiglioncello is the spectacular location for the restaurant, engaging not only the eyes and of course the palate, but giving diners a taste of what is to come in the balmy aromas that fill the air of Monteverdi.
In planning, opening and operating the restaurant, Oreade has collaborated with chef, Giancarla Bodoni. For nearly two decades, Ms. Bodoni has been a pioneer among female chefs—leading the organic/raw-food/farm-to-table charge from her upscale Italian restaurant, Escopazzo, in Miami.
“I am honored to be involved in this wonderfully innovative project and thrilled to return to my family’s roots. I hope to strike the balance between paying respect to this region’s incredible tradition of culinary mastery while adding a little bit of surprise to the taster’s experience,” commented Ms. Bodoni. Ms. Bodoni describes the commitment to excellence and authentic Tuscan cuisine at Oreade this way: “To make a truly great restaurant I went back to the basics: the purest, best ingredients I can find and never compromise on quality and freshness. I am so excited to be part of Oreade because its location in Tuscany will afford me and our other chefs access to the best, freshest and most savory ingredients in the world. My passion is to make Oreade one of the very best ‘destination’ restaurants in Tuscany and the world.
If Italy is the garden of Europe and Tuscany the garden of Italy, then Oreade will be the place people come to eat directly from the garden.”
Indeed, Oreade has delighted hundreds of guests since opening. Here is a sample of their comments:
“Tuscan Magic…the food is absolutely delicious and the service is out of this world!!” - Annette P., Witbank, South Africa
“Amazing Location… The view was incredible from the restaurant and our room…we especially enjoyed the food at the restaurant and Massimo’s assistance with the wine list and menu, the local wine was delicious.” - Brigette W., Shrewsbury, United Kingdom
“The cuisine at the newly-opened restaurant is impeccable and we enjoyed multiple tastings under the stars. The executive chef and the restaurant manager Massimo are supremely knowledgeable…After we left we stayed in a 5-star resort on the Amalfi coast with a Michelin star restaurant. All we could think about was how we missed Monteverdi. Bravo! We can’t wait to return.” - Dave C., New York, NY
Opening of The Monteverdi Art Gallery
This year, we were delighted to witness the completion of the restoration of one of the buildings in Castiglioncello that dates back to the 14th Century. This structure is framed by the original walls that have protected the village since the Middle Ages. This large building with its beautiful vaulted ceiling was once a storehouse for grain, wine and other supplies. In 2013 this historic space was transformed into the Monteverdi Gallery.
The Monteverdi Gallery’s program is directed by Sarah McCrory who has extensive curatorial experience. She is currently the Artistic Director of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts (GI). From 2010 – 2013, she worked as curator of The Frieze Foundation, the curatorial program realized annually at Frieze Art Fair, producing over 20 projects and 14 films. In 2012 she curated a program of major public commissions as part of the London 2012 Festival. Prior to this project, Ms. McCrory was co-curator of the nonprofit organization Studio Voltaire (London), curator of project space Swallow Street (London), a Director of Vilma Gold (London) and advisor to the Frame section at Frieze Art Fair (2009).
She is readily recognized for her innate ability to identify young talent and commission memorable and ambitious projects. Ms. McCrory’s expertise will be key to the development of Monteverdi as it evolves into a place where visitors and artists explore an area rich in cultural history.
The first exhibition at the Monteverdi Gallery featured Spartacus Chetwynd, a British artist whose practice includes performance, sculpture, painting, and video. Her performances resemble folk plays or street spectacles, involving a fluid troupe of friends and family members. Their improvised props, costumes and scenery often form sculptural installations in their own right. Addressing subjects as diverse as Adam and Eve in the poetry of John Milton (‘The Fall of Man’, Tate Britain, 2006) or ancient and modern systems of democracy (‘Odd Man Out’, Sadie Coles, London, 2011), the performances strike a darkly carnivalesque note, and tread an ambiguous line between melodrama, arcane ritual, and fan culture.
Spartacus Chetwynd studied Social Anthropology at University College London before studying art at the Slade and the Royal College of Art. She has performed and exhibited internationally, and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2012. ‘Odd Man Out’ was restaged at Tate Britain, London, from October 2012 to January 2013. Other major performances include ‘Home Made Tasers’, New Museum, New York (2011-12), ‘The Visionary Vineyard: Dreaming of Free Energy’, Hayward Gallery, London (2011, part of ‘British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet’), and ‘A Tax Haven Run By Women’, Frieze Projects, Frieze Art Fair, London (2010). Major solo exhibitions include ‘Help! I’m trapped in a Muzuzah Factory’, Le Consortium, Dijon, France, 2008, and ‘Spartacus Chetywnd’, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Switzerland, 2007. Current and recent group exhibitions include the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Goteborg, Sweden (2013); Aquatopia, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK, and Tate St Ives, St Ives, UK (2013); Performance Now: The First Decade of the New Century, various venues, USA (2012-14); and British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, various UK venues (2010). In 2007 a book was published on her performances by Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst. In 2014, she will have solo exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, UK, and Studio Voltaire, London.
While in residence at Monteverdi, Spartacus returned to a series of paintings she calls the “Bat Opera” which consists of dozens of small oil paintings featuring bats. The paintings are grouped together in individual montages or panels of nine paintings each. These primordial creatures are a metaphor for the fact that the spirit and energy of a despised underdog can be more alluring, endearing and attractive than superficial beauty.
At the Gallery opening in September, Michael L. Cioffi, Monteverdi’s founder and owner, described Ms. Chetwynd’s exhibition and her relationship to Monteverdi’s Artist in Residence program: “First and foremost, the purpose of the artist in residence program at Monteverdi is to foster and support the best contemporary artists in the world working in all media–painting, sculpture, music and literature. Our premise is that exposing an artist to the unique natural beauty of Monteverdi and the rich cultural history of Tuscany will spark imagination and inspire new insights, epiphanies and vision. Technique and craft will also grow and develop, producing innovation and advancement of artistic expression. The rich art history of the region surrounding Monteverdi extends back in time, not just to the renaissance and middle ages, but farther to the Etruscans and palaeolithic man, whose cave drawings can still be seen on Mt. Cetona, one of the mountains that frames the landscape around Monteverdi. This history creates a 30,000 year continuum of art that the Monteverdi artist in residence becomes connected to and a part of when he or she steps into the village of Castiglioncello to live and work.
Our first artist, Spartacus Chetwynd, has proven to be a perfect choice. While in residence she returned to her decade long self-confessed “obsession” with painting bats. Her work at Monteverdi, however, is far from boring or repetitive. There is new, intense exploration and use of light, landscape and perspective. There are several aspects of Ms. Chetwynd’s new work that boldly evoke the cave artists that preceded her on the continuum. These aspects include her subject matter, obviously, but much more. She presents her unusual and “unsuitable” subject matter through a masterful and simultaneous combination of different conventions like primitive realism, abstraction and stylization. The result is amazing and utterly new art, making all of the artists who came before her on the continuum—from the Cetona caves to the renaissance—both proud and a bit envious.”
Other Artists in Residence during 2013
In addition to the visual art of Ms. Chetwynd, a talented and exciting group of musical artists from around the world performed at Monteverdi as part of our Artists in Residence Program. Monteverdi’s featured artists included soprano Silvia Frigato. Ms. Frigato was accompanied by world-class musicians Roberto Loreggian on harpsichord, Chistiano Contadin on viola and Marta Graziolino on Baroque harp. Among Ms. Figato’s most recent engagements: Bononcini’s Stabat Mater and Messa à cinque concertata at the Konzerthaus in Vienna with Concerto Italiano and Rinaldo Alessandrini (recorded for Naïve – winner of the Choc de la musique in France); Handel’s Israel in Egypt on an Italian tour with Capella Savaria and Nicholas McGegan; a concert for MiTo 2012 dedicated to Artemisia Gentileschi, with Accademia d’Arcadia (then recorded on CD); Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with Sara Mingardo and Concerto Italiano conducted by Rinaldo Alessandrini at the Salle Gaveau in Paris; Christmas concerts in the Basilica of San Marco in Venice with the Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice conducted by Stefano Montanari and in Monte-Carlo with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo; Caccini’s L’Euridice (title role) at the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik with Concerto Italiano and Rinaldo Alessandrini; Mozart’s Betulia Liberata at the Wratislavia cantans festival with B’Rock under Corrado Rovaris.
Monteverdi was also a host and sponsor for the international chamber music festival Incontri in Terra di Siena. Recognized as one of the premier music festivals in Tuscany, the Incontri was founded in 1989 in the memory of Antonio and Iris Origo by their grandson Antonio Lysy, an internationally acclaimed cellist and a Professor of Music at UCLA. He is the son of the violinist, conductor, and composer Alberto Lysy, who was, prior to his death last year, one of the most respected classical musicians actively performing in
Over the past 25 years, the Incontri has been the summer performance venue for some of the most talented and famous musicians in the world. Artists such as Louis Lortie, Ronan O’Hora, Kathryn Stott, Jeremy Menuhin, Daniel Phillips, Ani Kavafian, Anthony Marwood, Daniel Zisman, Rachel Podger, Mark Kaplan, Lucy Shelton, Stephan Genz, Nicki Kennedy, Steven Isserlis, Carter Brey, Colin Carr, Janet Hilton, Antony Pay, James Campbell, Stephen Stirling, and chamber groups like the Orpheus and Schidlof Quartets, Goldberg Ensemble, Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, Kremlin Chamber Orchestra and Red Priest have all performed at the Incontri.
This year’s festival was highlighted by a wonderful performance of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Verdi’s La Traviata by the Orchestra della Toscana with soprano Cinzia Forte, and conducted by Francesco Cilluffo.
In addition to chamber and classical music Monteverdi hosts a variety of musical genres including jazz and blues artists from around the world. Once again Monteverdi was the 2013 sponsor and host of one of the region’s best festivals: Sarteano Jazz and Blues. Featured this year was the Big Daddy Wilson Acoustic Trio from North Carolina, Beyond Room 14 Jazz Ensemble from Siena, and special performance of “Acoustic Fusion” performed by nationally renowned guitarist Diego Perugini.
Also performing this year was the Doggett Quartet led by Dr. Cynthia Doggett, Professor of Music at Central College Pella, IA, the Pezza Quartet and the Rowland Jones Band, headed by UK lead guitarist and vocalist Rowland Jones. Every Thursday throughout the summer Caffé Monteverdi hosts and highlights local musicians from around the Val d’Orcia.
The Monteverdi Prize and Scholarship is Established
This year, Michael L. Cioffi established and endowed The Cioffi Family Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater (1975) and that of his son and Monteverdi CEO, Michael A. Cioffi (2000). The scholarship will be awarded annually to a student at Notre Dame majoring in the University’s Program of Liberal Studies (PLS). PLS is a rigorous humanities education in which students read, analyze, discuss and write about the “canon” of Eastern and Western culture. The courses and syllabi over 3 years encompass the greatest thinkers, writers and artists since the beginning of Eastern and Western civilization. This “canon” includes the likes of: Confucius, Lao Tsu, Homer, Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Locke, and Kierkegaard among many others.
The purpose of PLS, and all humanities-based education, is to develop students who can think critically, analyze and solve the complex problems of a complex world, understand the human condition, empathize compassionately with human beings in their immense diversity, find pathways across competing cultures and ideologies and appreciate mankind at its greatest—composing and performing great music, painting great canvasses, sculpting great statues, writing great literature, discovering new scientifics, thinking new philosophy. Pursuing the truth–wherever it takes. Being free spirits, Mr. Cioffi and his family are proud to encourage and support this education.
The 2013 and first recipient of the Monteverdi Prize was Jack Yusko. Jack is a senior at Notre Dame this Fall. While a scholar in residence, Jack engaged in research on Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan in relation to modern Italian politics. Jack lead a seminar called “Efficiency through Authoritarianism: The Leviathan in Modern Italian Politics.” His seminar explored how the Italian elections at the beginning of 2013, resulted in complete gridlock, leaving the country without a truly functional government for months. Hobbes’ Leviathan focuses on an entity that possesses full political power derived from the willing consent of the majority and acts only in the interest of those represented. In the seminar, participants discussed whether the investment of political power in this one entity could be beneficial and, further bring sufficient efficiency and progress to justify a departure from the apparent failures of Italian democracy.
Jack also hosted a seminar entitled Due Inferni: Dante per Dan Brown. This seminar was an entertaining and informative book discussion about Dante’s Inferno and Dan Brown’s new novel by the same name.
Three New Suites join Hotel Monteverdi
We added three new suites to the hotel in 2013. Each suite has an incredible view of Mt. Cetona, the Val d ’Orcia and the famous vineyard of Andrea Franchetti known as Tenuta di Trinoro. One suite features a wood burning fireplace that is framed on each side by two floor-to-ceiling glass paneled windows that open to provide stunning views of Cetona and the valley. Another of the new suites features an oversized double shower enclosed in floor-to-ceiling glass. A third suite features a sitting area that has a direct view through a large window onto Piazza Guigno 16, the village’s main piazza, and the Chiesa Sant’ Andrea.