A medieval tower, which belonged to the Salimbeni and Piccolomini families, overlooking the village of Petroio, perched spirally on a hill, in one of the most beautiful and uncontaminated sites in the province of Siena. A silverware and jewellery designer that deeply loves his country and who for years has been dreaming of buying the tower to renovate it and bring it to life. And finally the exciting story of a lover that invites his woman to a tete-à-tete meeting at the very top of the keep, where the view extends from Pius II’s Pienza to charming Montalcino, from Val d'Orcia to the austere Monte Amiata.
The profound affection that binds Giovanni Raspini to his own land, and his love for art, led him to the purchase, in 2013, of the tower of Petroio, and to arrange for its delicate restoration, revealing a stunning final result. The tower consists of six floors, each consisting of a single square room of just over 16 square meters; it is 22 meters high, and has an outer side of about 7 meters, of which more than 3 m occupied by the thickness of the massive sandstone walls. It appeared diseased with degradation and in a critical static situation preventing conservation.
The works of consolidation and restoration have been carried out, taking into account the nature of the artifact, limiting invasiveness. First, proceeding to restore the external masonry, and including some interventions that would guarantee the stability of the structure. Inside, the walls have been restored in plaster and created a new ventilation system for the lower floor, two new staircases were built to facilitate access to the first floors, while the wooden stairs leading to the upper floors have been maintained and restored. Great attention has been given to the many cielings, now wooden now with barrel vaulted or cruise, partly rebuilt with recycled elements of the structure itself, or with new materials of the same type. On first floor a toilet was built using an existing niche in the wall. The floors are made sometimes in terracotta floor-tiles or aged raw chestnut wood.
The tower was also provided with electrical wiring and water system with copper pipes in sight, and it was decided not to add any heating system or piped supply of gas. All operations were conducted in accordance with the historical structure and will prevent an inevitable decline, restoring dignity and strength to the tower, which can now face the centuries to come.
The new lease of life of the tower
The second phase of the work has also included a recovery action that is aimed at giving a new life to the tower. From ancient place defence garrison, it becomes a microcosm to welcomes the traveller, in a process that from the satisfaction of material needs, rises to the sublime. From the entrance, which still bears traces of what was once a shelter for animals, it leads to the kitchen, equipped with fireplace and bathroom, then to the living room, the bedroom, the library and finally to the study, end of the trip. Here, having reached the turret, the surrounding landscape is breath taking: Pienza, Montepulciano, Val d'Orcia, Mount Amiata.
Giovanni Raspini, together with the architects of Studio Superplum who oversaw the restoration, has expressed a willingness to immediately leave the tower "naked", stripped of all that does not belong. The philosophy was therefore based on the key words "respect" and "simplicity", focusing on listening, action necessary to empathize with the object and perceive its needs. «Interventions», explains Raspini, «had the goal of “removing" rather than "adding", in strict compliance with the original materials». From an initial project proposal based on the concept of "tower in the tower," which envisaged a modular bronze mirror that left the walls intact, the team has come to a minimalist choice, a play of shapes and colours between the old and the modern in a spirit of impeccable taste.
Each floor has only one item placed free standing, admittedly a functional object that does not try to blend in with the tower but allowing only the minimum equipment for survival, designed as an evolution and deformation of the medieval "chest". Thus liberating the tower of all that is, architecturally and spiritually superfluous. The choice of materials of furnishings is reduced to the essence and functionality: the severe dark burnished metal, that covers the outside of every object, contrasts with the steel which finishes all interior work surfaces. This combination we barely see only in a few details that expose the presence of the steel in the interior, emphasizing the barely hinted aspect the chest archetype. Legs and handles are cleaned up to their ultimate essence. The chest, an object that has always been used as a bed, table, seat, box, is back to life, back to its most congenial place.
The aim of the journey
In its new role, the tower of Petroio, will be inaugurated on Saturday, May 9th, and on the occasion, will present a unique setup: imagining the story of a lover that invites his woman at a very special meeting, Giovanni Raspini has wanted to provide the top floor, with furniture he created for the occasion, wrought iron and decorated with bronzobianco sculptures coming nearly alive. It consists of a table and two chairs for a tete-à-tete meeting, as well as other pieces of furniture around. To complete the scene, the table will be laid with the objects produced by the company, the most unique and eclectic, where the animalier elements climb and peep. Everything, frozen in time, as in a single moment, and ready to welcome and impress the beloved, for an unforgettable evening.