An agricultural village of historic origins? No, Monte Sante Marie is much, much more. It is a true and real ‘system’ whose story and legends, architecture and agriculture, products and traditions, culture and art, projects and professions all bond and act together to form a complete reality. And, why not, with dreams: those of its proprietors, their friends, guests and passers-by.
Monte Sante Marie, with its bundle of happenings, battles and mysteries, is, in fact, the hub of a ‘work in progress’ and a long-term design. There is a will to recreate and reconstruct the village until it becomes what it once was. It is a community inspired by sobriety, knowledge and respect of the past as its primary goal, but also as a center for proposals and new ideas, as well as being a fountain of economic and intellectual substance.
All of the elements are present. Stefano Tesi, owner and continuator of this antique family business. He is, as well, a professional journalist who specializes in worldwide travel, customs and cultural reporting and works with the most important news and magazine publications in Italy. He is author of books and guides which deal with the environment, economy, agriculture, wine and gastronomy. Stefano personally follows the running of the Estate and, in particular, the production of extra-virgin olive oil (as well as being a professional taster). For years he conducted radio programs (he is an enthusiast of rock & roll, soul and r & b), has collected vinyl records, and been a music critic. All of his multiple interests come out when speaking with him: favorite among guests are the ‘chats’ they have with Stefano while sitting under the stars in the main square after dinner.
Stefano’s wife, Daniela, is an editor, publicist and copywriter. Her ‘bright idea’ several years ago was to make Monte Sante Marie the center of her activities by using the instrument of the century: Internet. This has transformed her into a ‘true’ pioneer and many articles have been written about her, as well as her having participated on the Italian TV talk show called Maurizio Costanzo Show. She has received honors from the Minister of Labor of Bassolino for being an example as a “young entrepreneur who has discovered how to successfully work and live with success in the countryside”. What are her specialties? Small volumes, non-fiction books, art calendars printed in limited editions and a magazine dedicated to all women who work in an environment which is physically or culturally challenging. Daniela’s cooking is also special: especially her homemade cakes. She is the organizer of the lectures, courses and programs organized by the Estate.
Surrounding Daniela and Stefano are two silly dogs (Aspasia and Sparga), numerous non-descript cats, many friends and guests of the Estate. All move among themselves in an eclectic group: journalists, famous and not-so-famous writers (Allen Ginsberg passed this way…), artists and painters (like George Schneeman), poets, politicians, public administrators (several famous mayors), architects, actors of stage, screen and TV, entrepreneurs, businesspeople and many ‘regular’ folks who have found in the atmosphere of the Crete Senesi relaxation, inspiration, interests and love.
Why is Monte Sante Marie able to unite all of these different qualities and personalities?
• The panorama: the Sienese Clay Hills… which is one of the most beautiful scenes found in the world;
• The architecture: noble buildings, a medieval ‘owners’ villa, rooms to let, fortifications, underground cellars, rural buildings, farms and mills that document the evolution of this rural center that has been constantly active for over 1300 years. The Estate is bound to the Superintendent of Monuments and is included in the Golden Honor Roll of Historic Tuscan Sites (Albo d’Oro delle Dimore Storiche della Toscana) for the restoration and transformation of the property. Monte Sante Marie is also a member of the Italian Association of Castles (Associazione Italiana dei Castelli);
• The history: born as a Longobard tower then transformed into a feudal castle then as a dirstrict, Monte Sante Marie has been an independent territory for over 13 centuries: a theater for battles, sieges, armistices, notarial and pastoral (religious as well as farming) acts;
• The agriculture: historically, Monte Sante Marie was based on sharecropping. Today, the business has been launched and based on singular ownership and productive recovery which is typical of the internal Tuscan hills;
• The ‘new’ economy: it is an experimental laboratory based on the new frontiers of telematics and Internet. It is the seat of ‘neorurals’, an avant-garde Tuscan agroturism, an experimental farm based on new cultures such as truffles and boysenberries. Monte Sante Marie strives and grows with new potentials and has transformed itself into a true ‘workshop’ for new ideas;
• The cultural heredity: Monte Sante Marie is based on an ‘open book’ theory which makes it accessible to historians, sociologists, architects, judicial studies and agronomists who are interested in studying the past;
• The experimentation: because of its history and the distinct quality of its state, the Estate is the ideal place for experimentation in regards to new ideas, projects and proposals;
• The social phenomena: Monte Sante Marie was one of the first locations in Italy (1986) to experiment with the phenomena of ‘neoruralism’: the progressive re-population of the countryside, which was diminished drastically after the rush to urbanize following W.W.II. It constitutes the beginning of ‘new’ owners (those of diverse professions) and the use of new, non traditional technologies;
• The art and the literature: home of an editorial firm, meeting place for artists, writers, creative types, photographers, biographers and collectors, Monte Sante Marie is a true ‘cultural island’ which is accessible to all but is not a place for everyone;
• The nature: the Estate holds a dominant place in an extraordinary landscape: that of the Crete Senesi (Sienese Clay Hills)… not unknown and used by film directors, publicists and photographers in a slew of advertisements and screen productions. White gullies and woods populated by wild boars, wolves, billy goats, herons, badgers, foxes, weasels, pheasants, wild hares, porcupines, falcons, buzzards, squirrels, turtle and white doves… all animals that one easily runs across while walking. Hunting is illegal in this area.