'EXVALSE', 'Operation/Project co-financed by the Tuscan Por Fesr 2014-2020'

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Local ambassador stories: Maria Pace Ottieri, Chiusi

Returning to Chiusi to breathe that family air that allows one to take a plunge back into the past.
For journalist and writer Maria Pace Ottieri, opening the doors of the family palace that takes up a good part of the central Via Porsenna each time means going back in memory and retracing unrepeatable moments. In the centenary year of the birth of Ottiero Ottieri, a particularly prominent personality in Chiusi, the local ambassador of the ancient Etruscan city could only be the daughter of the well-known writer.

The connection between me and Chiusi originates from my father's family. My grandfather was born here, and centuries earlier, in this center of the Valdichiana Senese, his ancestors came to light. My brother and I inherited this house, which is located in the center of the town and where we spent many summer periods as children. I have always taken care of this building and to this day I often return to it. I feel very attached to this building, because after so many years I feel that an intimate bond has been formed between me and him ... and then I don't have a car, so when I come I completely experience the rooms, the corridors and the large rooms with frescoes, paintings and furniture from past eras.”

Maria Pace Ottieri talks about the city of Porsenna in a book she published in 2011 entitled "Chiusi dentro", which focuses on the story of the microcosm of provincial life, fragile but at the same time strong and attached to what has been. A work somewhere between a private tale and a narrative chronicle, very much focused on the walls of this mansion that guard the family's history.

“The house is old, one part is from the 1200s and another was built slightly later. My grandfather belonged to an aristocratic family from Chiusi, married a girl from Cetona and together they went to Rome to seek their fortune. He, however, loved the Valdichiana and the land and every weekend he came back here, where he lived right here on a permanent basis in the summer. My father came and went from here, and his first book was written among these rooms in 1954. It's called "Memorie dell'incoscienza" and it tells about life in a Tuscan town, Chiusi, in 1943, before and after the armistice”.

The writer recalls the ambivalent relationship between her father and the town, as in the book "Il palazzo e il pazzo", where by the madman she means himself and by the Palace she means the house in the historic center. The reason for this contentious relationship between Ottiero Ottieri and the township, she tells:

“For my father, Chiusi represented agriculture and the countryside, a world that he did not accept, so much so that as soon as it was possible he went from Rome to Milan because he was interested in the world of industry, which he believed was the future. His father, on the other hand, my grandfather, loved agriculture and wanted his son to attend agrarian school. That's why there was this love-hate relationship. It was as if Chiusi was the place of the clash between father and son.”

As much as the writer loves city life, at times hectic and stressful, she considers life in Chiusi to be a soothing balm, a stress reliever that she likes to return to every couple of months when she returns:

“The difference between Milan and Chiusi is abysmal. Here life is soft, slow, sleepy. The errands I have to run here I can do calmly in little more than an hour's time; in Milan it is unthinkable. On foot you can get around the whole historic center well, and by taking the car you can get to wonderful places, where everything is still intact. And then people here have a spirit of protection and preservation towards the environment, the historic center, everything, which is surely the salvation of this area. When I walk along the course of Chiusi and I catch a glimpse among the tall buildings of a fragment of sky and green like when I was a child, I still get excited because it is really very beautiful: it is not so common in Italy to see such a large territory almost untouched”.

Then there is an aspect that the journalist emphasizes, related to the language of the Valdichiana Senese: “The way of speaking of the people in these parts, even the simplest ones, is fantastic. I like it very much and I consider it one of the first signs of great civilization in these parts. Any person, even the peasants, have and had a very advanced grace and propriety of language, and I like that very much.”

The place of the local ambassador's heart:

Definitely this house, by virtue of the deep bond that has been created between her and me. I know exactly what's in every drawer, from papers to very strange objects from days gone by that belonged to my ancestors. I've also found a box with rolled up cards for a charity fishing trip 120 years ago, insignia from a carnival costume, the suet my grandfather used to clean his shoes with after he went to the country... I don't move anything, I leave everything where it is because that's the beauty of this historic house. It is a building that continually offers surprises, insights into lives lived, because my ancestors have always lived here permanently. It is an exciting place that I cherish.

Maria Pace Ottieri is a journalist and writer, daughter of Ottiero Ottieri