This journey through the history, culture and aromas, between rain water and the warmth of a fireplace, starts in the north on the shore of a hidden lake
Twenty-one years ago in 1998, Cecilia Tessieri imagined the first Amedei chocolate bar called the Toscano Black 70, which was later awarded the Gold Medal at the Chocolate Academy in London for the blend tinged with hints of tobacco and toasted malt. They recommend combining it with sweet liqueur wines such as Banyuls, or with a Magnolia perfume that finds where the roots sink in the earth, the taste of trunk and bark – while the leaves that frame the petals are as soft as pasta. A touch of citrus and pepper, the heart of green accords, and dry woods – whether it’s perfume or chocolate. The Toscano Black 70 was born after eight years of experimentation in a laboratory that initially produced pralines.
Stop 1 – Orta Lake. This journey through the history, culture and aromas, between rain water and the warmth of a fireplace, starts in the north on the shore of a hidden lake. On this side of the lake, before the Second World War, an agreement between Italy and Germany allowed the Bemberg company to install a factory producing rayon: it required a large quantity of water supplied by the lake. The Bemberg released ammonia that reacted with the copper and heavy metals discarded in the chrome plating processes. In the 30s it exploded in environmental damage and extinguished the lake: eliminating life in the water. Children were prohibited from swimming. In the 1980s the Institute for the Study of Ecosystems in Pallanza, part of the CNR, recovered tons of bicarbonate from a nearby quarry and poured it into the lake. The pH of the water stabilized, the metals settled under the silt. A story of rebirth, Daniela Fantini remembers: the royal perch was the first to return, with majestic courage. Within a short time the eels and carp returned. Then wild ducks and swans. Freshwater crayfish reappeared on the shores, and mussels at the bottom of the lake, which slowly worked to clean the subsoil from the silent metals. Today Lake Orta is one of the cleanest basins in Italy, the water is drinkable even at depths of ten meters. Now the tapware and faucet district along its banks and in the surrounding valleys is more attentive to the environmental impact of the industry. Daniela Fantini is the Lady of this Lake – if in a Lady we find a protective and benevolent meaning we remember from medieval sagas. The Lady asked Piero Lissoni to design the new Fantini Rubinetterie headquarters: made of glass, catching the light between willows and brooms. On the edge of the park of the manor house, Lissoni then designed a small hotel that shines in the refreshing shade. In the center of Pella on the dock, Casa Fantini opened to guests last August after five hundred days of work – dedicated to architects from all over the world who come to visit the company, to learn about the new hydraulic systems that make Fantini a specialist in design for water.
Casa Fantini is a stone building set in the green of the shore, the lines are modern but kind. Those who stay there breathe its fresh air alongside the dragonflies of the Island of San Giulio – the bishop who came from Greece to establish a hundred churches. “As a child in Switzerland I was surprised by the quantity and variety of milk produced” – Toscano Brown, 8 times winner of Tavoletta d’Oro award, at La Compagnia del Cioccolato, is the first of Amedei’s milk chocolates. With hints of honey and white flowers, the flavor is creamy as vanilla flavored with milk and cream.
Stop 2 – Versilia. Stories of water and peace belong to places for practicing leisure. In Latin otium is the opposite of negotium, the denial of ease, of comfort. A bucolic dimension, a Virgilian elegy: in the shade of a tree. Idleness is not a waste of time: it is the time to dedicate oneself to the contemplation of the world and of oneself. Ozio is the name of the perfume created by Maurizio Cerizza and Silvio Levi in 2008 , distinct for its aromatic herbal, floral and woody notes. It’s not too sweet. Nostalgia is a form of energy that becomes glory, in the first stage of the chocolate route, in Forte dei Marmi – when the sky becomes clear, the sea breaks into ocean, the Apuan Alps turn to crystal. A tornado has cut down part of the pine forest: when thirty-five pine trees fell in the garden of the Augustus, Titti Maschietto replanted forty. The historic hotel, unique for many (more than many) the only real hotel in Forte dei Marmi – directed and managed like a family. Forte dei Marmi is not a place, but a mode. Riding bicycles in September, the humidity has an undefinable fragrance, the smell of rain. The colored wooden shoes are a little darker, shiny. The closed wardrobes, the clothes and shoes that you leave for next season, made out of rough, stringy cotton. The drops of a puddle where the shadow falls. Admiral Morin’s villa – the subdivisions of the pine forest granted to fleet commanders by the Regia Marina: a holm oak pruned each year so as not to cover the sight of the sea – the holm oak expands in width instead of growing in height. Cycling to the house of Carlo Carr , the futurist painter, part of a society of art and literature that populated the pine forest from the coast to Pietrasanta: a floor of red and blue tiles, old yellow cloth, of rough sofas and fabrics, fifties table tops in green glass.
The cocoa used for the production of Amedei chocolate comes from more than 9 plantations, rediscovered, cured and put back into production by the Tuscan company. The nine varieties of cocoa flow into the blend number 9 of Cecilia Tessieri. Dark chocolate, with hints of citrus and sweet toasted almond, which summarize the story of Amedei and link the founder with her roots. A family – stay there to continue their work or avoid it to find your own identity.
Stop 3 – Punta Ala. A tribute to the awakening of nature and the senses, expressed by the contrast between the fruits and flowers of Acqua Fiorentina, like a summer dawn in Tuscany. Until the early twentieth century, the boys bathed secretly in the sea. It was generally believed that you could contract malaria by immersing yourself in water. The area owes its name to Italo Balbo, aviator and politician during the fascist regime. In flight aboard his seaplane he spied the tip of the Gulf of Follonica – which looked like a wing lying on the sea. Italo Balbo is struck by the unspoiled nature. He decides to buy it. First of all he decided to change the name: the promontory of Troia became Punta Ala, due to its conformation. In Castiglione della Pescaia, Italo Balbo usually takes a swim in the sea, to the astonishment of local inhabitants. Almost a century after a time when diving in the water was forbidden, the town is today the second biggest Italian seaside resort thanks to the quality of its waters and its beaches. The Gallia of Punta Ala is a construction whose style brings us back to the era it was conceived in: a style that over the years has deprecated, that today appears docile and representative of current aesthetics. The lines and the geometries form a design that dialogues with the environment in which it is located: architectural rigor against soft hilltops, soft slopes and maritime pines that form natural graphics. Green areas, flowerbeds: the hotel avenues are an extension of the surrounding vegetation, composed of holm oaks, cork oaks, rosemary, cysts, mastic, strawberry trees, wild garlic, broom and heather, olive groves. Five hundred meters from the central building, the private sandy beach is protected by the coastal pine forest which guarantees natural shade. Trees, bushes and stretches of flowers surround a twenty-five meter outdoor pool. Two kilometers from the hotel, the Punta
Ala Golf Club is a playground of 6168 meters with an eighteen- hole course. One of the first golf courses built in Tuscany, it was designed in the 1960s by architect Giulio Calvasani, who was a golfer in his spare time. Natural light illuminates the spaces, furnished in ancient Tuscan style, classic or modern, which is found in the rural houses of the region: earth colors, rustic wood, terracotta floors, fabrics and natural fibers such as linen or cotton. Echoes of the golden age evoked by the poet Hesiod in the poem The works and the days: trees spontaneously lavish fruits for people to feed upon. The chocolatier, alchemist of the desert, combines what nature offers them. Toscano Red Amedei mixes cocoa paste, cane sugar and cocoa butter with strawberries, raspberries and cherries.
Stop 4 – the Amalfi Coast. Along the chocolate way there is a tribute to nature, heading down south in the autumn looking for that warm sun granted to a few. We arrive in Ravello. Here how much a person produces – the ceramics – have a triangular spike design: sunflower petals or sunbeams. On Sunday they sing mass. Father Angelo tightens the sign of peace with every member of the church, climbing and descending the nave three times. It speaks of light over darkness – the clouds move away, the vault lights up. At the end of the function, he warns that the next day he will go through every house, every home, to meet and discover the talents and interests of the people. On the threshold of the bronze door, Don Angelo has a chocolate egg for each of us. An Italian Sunday, one that leads to cinema and poetry about the lust of the world – you can find it here, in a town suspended and overlooking the sea four hundred meters above sea level along the Amalfi Coast. A maritime republic, eastern influences from Byzantium to African, trade by ship – overlooking the balcony of Palazzo Avino. The leaves on the trees in autumn, pruned roses, the maritime pines in their shady colors, the silver olive trees. The walls are pink. Palazzo Avino is a hotel that opened in 1997 with an address in Ravello, between Positano and Vietri. It has a trolley of flowers at the entrance, grapes and figs on the piano. The mosaics on the floors, geometric checkers – brilliant ceramics shine emerald green in the pool set before the Turkish bath.
A little fruit – a pastiera, cinnamon and orange blossoms and candied fruit. Confetti with baba stuffing. These are the notes of Little White by Mizensir, the fragrance that perfumer Alberto Morillas dedicated to his niece Bianca: simple agreements to communicate the essential and sentimental truths: mandarin, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, white musk. The pungent scent, the resilient rose in a garden. A piece of chocolate sitting on the couch – a book by Slim Aarons on the table, and a retrospective by Olivier Theyskens. The room has three large windows that are wide open, curtains flying in the current. Storm clouds race across the sky, the sea is rough – its saltiness remains far away, in a vortex that touches your head, as in a novel by Brunella Schisa, a Neapolitan writer. The sound of a fountain of water awakens you in the afternoon, a book open in your hands. Amedei Porcelana won at the Academy of Chocolate – Best Bean to Bar, Best Dark Chocolate Bar, Golden Bean award. Amedei Porcelana is made with translucent, white cocoa beans, a variety now called Porcelana, a genetically pure variety of Criollo which is native to Venezuela, cultivated perhaps in the pre-Columbian era.
Stop 5 – Capri. Navigation across the Amalfi Coast is the synthesis of every cruise from Spain to the French Riviera, bringing all of mid-October’s flavours. Echoes of a journey undertaken by Robert Floris, logbooks enclosing the sea in a bottle. This journey of ours comes to rest in the middle of the Mediterranean – this scent of berries and seeds is Floris’s Neroli Voyage. The blue lizard lives on the landforms of Fuori and Mezzo, described as a zoological rarity by Capri writer and botanist Edwin Cerio. He recounted its coloring in an article published in Tempo on March 17, 1954, reprinted on the occasion of the twenty years of La Conchiglia, the small publishing house in Via Le Botteghe 12. The lizard is blue- green on the throat, on the belly, on its hips and undertail. On its back the blue turns black. Its head is distinguished from the rest of the body, its thread-like tongue is flat and bifid, its eyes have round pupils and mobile eyelids. In order to live in a place with little vegetation and food they changed color – dark reptiles absorb more heat, are faster hunters and are weather resistant. They meet on the Punta Tragara terrace – a curved amaranth-colored villa that stands guard, overlooking the island’s guardian monoliths. The building was constructed in 1920 by the Lombard engineer Emilio Errico Vismara – who also built the thermo-electric power station, the funicular, and the Quisisana hotel. At the beginning, this building was called Stracasa, because it had something more than a normal house. Le Corbusier, who followed Vismara in the drafting stages of the project described the structure in Domus as “a kind of architectural flowering, an emanation of the rock, a branch of the island, a plant phenomenon, almost a lichen grown on the side of Capri”. During the Second World War the Tragara was requisitioned and used as a rest-camp for US Air Force officers. The generals Eisenhower, Clark and Sir Winston Churchill met here. After the purchase in 1968 by Count Goffredo Manfredi, who made it his good retreat. In 1973 the dwelling was transformed into a hotel. All the rooms overlook the Faraglioni – one of these rooms, the first of Tragara’s suites, is referred to as the Monacone, which owes its name to the monk seal that populated the waters.