The Sienese writer Federigo Tozzi (Siena 1883 - Rome 1920) is one of the figures that made the Tuscan city renowned in twentieth-century literature throughout Italy. The following exhibition features extracts from his three major novels inspired by his own life, “Bestie” (1917), “Tre croci” (1918) and “Con gli occhi chiusi” (1919), which permanently associate the characters and intimate feelings they describe with these places. The sights, panorama and streets of medieval Siena thus become crucial elements of these contemporary narrative masterpieces, as well as visual synonyms of Tozzi himself.
“The restaurant remained busy until late; but, towards midnight, everyone was tired and impatient to rest. If anyone was still seated at a table, all the lights in the other rooms would be switched off one by one. The waiters took off their work jackets; the chefs changed their tunics” [F. Tozzi, 2004, Con gli occhi chiusi. Ricordi di un impiegato, Feltrinelli: Milan, page 5].
“He would remain alone in the house for days on end; looking, with his face against the glass, at the narrow blue rectangle between the roofs. That glimpse of blue, so far away, almost made him angry; [...]And then he felt the emptiness of that loneliness enclosed within one of the oldest buildings in Siena, completely uninhabited, with the cropped tower above the gloomy Arco dei Rossi; among the dark, deserted houses, each one pressing against the next; with sculpted coats of arms that no one recognises any more, of families that have disappeared”
[F. Tozzi, 1982, Con gli occhi chiusi, Istituto Geografico De Agostini: Novara, page 96].
“The tall, narrow houses together give a sense of monotonous anguish; with the alleyways of Fontebranda like numerous chasms providing a glimpse, far away, of a green hill interspersed by dark cypresses. They stopped in Piazza San Domenico, sure that no one would hear them there. There is a half-ruined garden there with a fir tree in the middle, on which a bunch of young rascals were climbing. The Church is a monotonous red, with the windows bricked up and the tower cracked from top to bottom. In an open space between two protruding walls beside the tower, a strip of grass grows along a closed arch that reaches up the roof, becoming wider at the bottom, where it joins that of the lawn. To Giulio, it seemed as if he was breathing all the air in the piazza in a single breath; he was like a boy in front of things he can’t understand, but clings to them all the same.”
[F. Tozzi, 2012, Tre Croci, Aonia Editions: Pisa, page 65]
Referred to in the novel as “Poggio a ‘Meli,
"[the house] was outside Porta Camollia, along that rather lonely road from Palazzo dei Diavoli that ends just beyond the Poggio al Vento convent. There was an old, single storey house with red plaster, joined to the vat room and the workers’ dwellings built over the stables.”
[F. Tozzi, 1919, Con gli occhi chiusi, Fratelli Treves: Milan, page 7].
“And then I went to look at the city from another spot, almost on the opposite side from Porta Ovile. I saw her squared vegetable plots entering, with one corner higher than the others, between the fewer houses; or, one after the other, shifting and make space [...] and some peach trees in blossom [...] and some olives calling back all the sweet countryside [...]; with a tenderness that touched me.”
[F. Tozzi, Bestie, in Opere complete di Federigo Tozzi, vol. III, Florence, Vallecchi, 1950, pp. 246-248]
“Roads that run in all directions, remaining close together, moving apart, they meet up two or three times, they stop; as if they didn’t know where to go, with small, lopsided squares, sunken without space, because of all the old buildings upon them”
[F. Tozzi, Con gli occhi chiusi, in Opere di Federigo Tozzi - I romanzi, vol. I, Florence, Vallecchi, 1961, pp. 65-66]
“The very low houses, almost sinking into the countryside, from Porta Ovile, from Fontebranda, from Tufi, support those alongside them, [...] the highest points are like calls to houses obliged to obey in order to avoid remaining too isolated. […] Or else you can count up to ten rows of roofs, long, long, ever higher: [...] The tower of the Mangia calmly emerges from all this confusion. And around the city, the olives and cypresses make space for themselves between the houses; as if coming from the countryside, they no longer wanted to go back”
[F. Tozzi, Con gli occhi chiusi, in Opere di Federigo Tozzi - I romanzi, vol. I, Florence, Vallecchi, 1961, pp. 130-140]
Exhibition made by Youth Committee of the Italian Commission for UNESCO - Tuscany. Text edited by Silvia Giordano and Massimo Vitulano; web version edited by Paolo Menchetti and Francesco Pacini