I must confess that since being involved in the business of Viscount Organs, that are made near Rimini on the Adriatic coast, a middle aged romance with Italy has developed into a full blown love affair with the country.
I am not a hugely enthusiastic traveller, I want to stay roughly where schoolboy languages will get me by or at least the chances that the locals speak English is pretty good, so my benchmarks are mainly limited to Europe and the USA. Even so by any experienced judge, Italy and its people retain a life style that must surely be the envy of most other parts of the globe. The food is a delight, nothing is ever done in a hurry or needs to be, the sun seems to shine brighter and the landscape and many towns and villages stopped developing shortly after Garibaldi unified the country in 1861. Italy retains a timelessness and tranquillity that our historic sites seem to have lost.
Shortly after a number of business trips to Italy, like most people seduced by the endless holiday and sunshine images of the ‘Place in the Sun’TV genre, I decided to explore an overseas hideaway and had regarded Tuscany as probably being far too expensive. I was surprised to find, at least in the northern area around Pisa, it represented good value compared with the South of France.
Sometimes you land on your feet and based with a few days internet search results from areas I had never visited – I landed in Pisa for a 3 day property search in July 2007 and as luck would have it stumbled upon the village of Corsanico in the hills above the coastal town of Viareggio, and the rest as they say in the movies is history.
Why am I so captivated by this place? Well for all the reasons I elucidate above, but combine this with a church with one of the finest historic organs in Italy and a Summer Music Festival that is centred (but far from exclusively) on this instrument and you have my ideal little world. The concerts start at 9.00pm, any earlier and the heat would be just too intense. But this does perfectly allow for an early supper (with change from 20 Euros – including wine) in a restaurant just 100 meters away and a gentle stroll up the ancient street to the Piazza St Michele and into the church.
The programmes are always interesting including performers of international reputation from all parts of the world. This season for example the organ will be played by Jean Guilou from Paris famed for his almost unplayable Toccata and improvisation skills. The energy this small community puts into making this concert series happen is down largely to the efforts of local resident Graziano Barsotti who probably will not mind if I say that his love for the Vincent Collona (1605) organ is as great as the love for his family.
How does such a fabulously expensive and ancient instrument come to be in a small hillside village? Well it started life in a church in the nearby wealthy city of Lucca and the story goes that Napoleon forced the closure of many of the cities churches. Eventually after protracted negotiations and the consent of the Pope, the redundant organ was gifted to Corsanico by a generous resident and it was moved some 20 miles over the hills by donkey cart to the village. No doubt as today, a second hand organ is worth a fraction of the original cost and so I expect a good bargain was had and a great musical work of art saved for posterity.
So there we have it, a great village, church and instrument, now the centre of a charming relaxed musical festival with some very great name performers. Last year Swiss performer Guy Bovet came to play. I thoroughly recommend attending. I would be surprised if you did not also feel the magic of the music in the warm Italian night air while looking down on the twinkling lights of Pisa in the distance below, may also feel motivated to investigate what little nearby hideaway is on the market to allow you more regular visits to this very special part of Italy. For a more detailed account of the instrument visit this link
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