The sun was high, hitting the ground. The car was pacing along slowly, up to a grey stone road surrounded by fields of a golden hue. Nothing was around, but the surreal calmness that only an unfamiliar environment can gift us, and yet the destination was close. A few minutes later, just right behind the highest point of the hill, there it stood: Fontana di Vite.
This is how I remember my arrival there, but I know that I cannot retrieve the true feelings and thoughts that filled me at the moment when I was actually approaching that majestic yet somehow humbled gate of the main entrance.
This is the tricky power of memory, covering everything underneath a silky layer of magical uncertainty, that blurs the imaginary line between what we actually lived and what we think we might remember.
The very first sound that I heard when I got out of the car that day, was coming out from the rumbling rocks rubbing one against the other, under the weight of my feet.
There is a solemn atmosphere revolving in the air whenever there is a sound going along with one’s steps. In that particular case, it felt like as though the ground was there to welcome me slowly into the peacefulness I was about to find ahead.
After a whole bunch of minutes spent to absorb how precious the view around me actually was, I eventually found the lady whom we had come there to meet.
Fausta is her name, the landlady. She is graceful but proud in the eyes, and I couldn’t avoid wondering what such a young soul was doing in the middle of nowhere, just a few miles away from Matera. I felt envious, I think, at least for a moment, when I thought about how she was waking up everyday to such a dreamlike place.
She says that what surrounds us is definitely luxurious but in a different way. As she goes on explaining such point of view, I immediately start to understand what she means. There, sitting in the main courtyard, covered by the shadow cast by the white-washed walls, I realized that what you end up treasuring the most in life is the simplicity, with its great power over us.
“No one is going to tell you ‘No’ here.” Is what she told us, but I wondered how a mind could dare to ask anything more beyond the simplicity of just being there.
Her mother was the director of a museum, and her uncle was an art dealer. She was born surrounded by beauty, and she even managed to gather together some more (quite a lot to be honest) in that place. She had bought nothing; every piece was carefully selected among the collection of a lifetime of an entire family.
“This is a place where I feel like home, and I want my guests to feel just the same”
Dear Fausta, never such a simple aim has been accomplished better.
Fausta has a brother, she said, yet we had to wait a few hours to meet him. It happened after dinner when the sun was down, and he was sitting within the courtyard, smoking his hand-rolled tobacco, not willing for himself to be located or discovered, instead to remain framed by the common addiction we shared.
Gianlorenzo is his name, the farmer. There, maybe loosened up a bit by the casual setting, we started talking.
I have no specific memories of that conversation, but I know it felt like meeting an old friend after a long work day. Despite the reality, we had been complete strangers, one to the other.
Two days later, I was sitting upon the top of his harvester, as he was teaching me to drive that grumpy machine, and how not to waste the loss of any wheat on the ground, far below where I was standing.
On the way back to our lodging, I found myself to bathe in the blue light, covering the scrub peeping out of the ground; while underfoot, once again, the rhythmic sound of the gravel. It was still the first day.
We woke up the day after, slapped in the face by the fierce sun. There is a pool, in the middle of the courtyard, cleansing the bodies of the guests with its fresh water. I remember I discovered a forgotten beauty in bathing while caressed by the chill of a breeze, remembering that few minutes before I felt completely covered by the small golden spikes of the land.
Under the refreshing thick walls of the main block of the Masseria, we found out that even breakfast had been set up to evoke the same atmosphere dominating the whole landscape: simplicity raised to its tallest pinnacle, reaching within us an almost blessed state.
Despite the fields, the workers, the horses, and the massive heritage (of tradition) that the place itself is soaked in, Fontana di Vite should not be mistaken for an old shelter, untouched by the passage of time. It is precisely, on the other hand, an environment immersed in a strong contemporary appeal.
As it often happens, people are called to inhabit places that mirror our own nature; this is why meeting two important international artists was no surprise at all. Fontana di Vite indeed has the aim to host art residencies, and I believe it is difficult to think of a better place to get inspired and for one to create.
A place detached from time, where a soul can rest and recover its deeper self, making sure that all the noise stays away.
This story is featured on C41 ISSUE 8 Memory.