Just 15 minutes west of Chianciano Terme is one of our favorite restaurants, Dopolavoro, at the beautiful La Foce Estate. Made famous by Iris Origo’s autobiographies, “War in the Val d’Orcia” and “Images and Shadows”, La Foce has a compelling history. Iris and her noble husband, Antonio, rescued a decrepit farm estate of 7,400 acres located near the lunar landscape of the Crete Senesi of Tuscany in 1920.
They reformed the farming techniques, increased the farming acreage and houses for their workers from 25 to 47. The Villa at La Foce and the gardens were enlarged and designed after Iris and Antonio married. Dopo il lavoro (after work) and on weekends at the thriving estate, workers and their families would gather at Dopolavoro Rurale to enjoy dancing, dramatic plays or share a meal; much like a social club.
Upstairs was a school that Iris founded for all the children. She and Antonio took in refugee children during the War, and when the Nazis requisitioned the Villa, they walked the children to Montepulciano to take shelter from the Allied bombing of their valley. Returning to the Villa sacked by the soldiers, they rebuilt their homes and their lives.
The gardens and Villa were designed by the British landscape architect, Cecil Pisant, a family friend of Iris’ mother, Lady Sybil Cutting who lived at the Villa Medici in Fiesole. Part of the Villa was once an inn for pilgrims traveling the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome.
Today, Iris’ daughters, Donata and Benedetta run the Villa and the farm houses as luxury vacation homes for guests and the gardens are open to visitors on Wednesday afternoons. One can enjoy a meal at Dopolavoro, or stop by for coffee and choose one of their stunning desserts; a favorite: apple cake with cinnamon and cream!
Open for lunch and dinner inside or outside on the garden terrace between April and November. After a winter’s hibernation, we are looking forward to enjoying an Easter luncheon with family and friends at Dopolavoro!
More info on il Dopolavoro