Under the assumption that the printed paper has its own role in the publishing market, Antonio Cipriani and his wife Valentina Montisci founded a bookshop focused entirely on independent publishing houses
De Roma usque ad mare
In the Abbey of San Salvatore al Monte Amiata, a holy Benedectine complex, which gives its name to the town of Abbadia San Salvatore in Tuscany, in the province of Siena, a parchment, dating back to 876 A.D., is preserved.
The Via Francigena is first mentioned in the Actum Clusio, an emphyteusis contract of a land. The Via is the portion of a network of routes, also called Romee, that from Western Europe lead soutward, up to the Holy Land: «Father Ostriberto, provost of the monastery in S.Salvatore al Montamiata, gives Gisalprando, son of late Guadifrido, through an emphyteusis contract, a monastic property in Callemala, from the land of the curtis dominicalis in the forest Campulongu, which borders the Via Francigena».
In the 10th century, Sigeric was the first to describe the pilgrimage route crossing Italy. In 990 A.D. the British archbishop of Canterbury goes to Rome to be consecrated by the then Pope John XVI and to receive the pallium, symbol of the dignity of the Archbishop. Sigeric the Serious — name by which the Prelate was known in Anglo-Saxon countries — recorded the return journey in detail. In his travel journal, he lists the eighty stops he did between the religious capital of the Holy Roman Empire and the port of embarkation to England, near the town and port of Calais. He describes the itinerary of the Via Francigena de Roma usque ad mare.
From the Papal residence, after passing Lazio, the route of Sigerico arrives until Tuscany and, before getting to Siena, known in that age as Seocine, passes through the Orcia Valley, which extends among the provinces of Siena and Grosseto and which is crossed by the river Orcia, after which it is named. This area, Unesco’s world heritage since 2004, is characterized by hilly landscapes and medieval villages.
Unesco has included this area for the state of conservation of the panorama, as a result of human interventions of transformation during the Renaissance. It influenced many artists of the later periods. Among the criteria listed by the organization: ‘Val d’Orcia is an outstanding example of the way the Renaissance period reshaped the panorama in order to reflect the ideals of good government and to create an aesthetically pleasing image’.
The Sant’Anna Monastery in Camprena, former Olivetan monastic complex of the XV century located in the homonymous town in Val d’Orcia, is the venue chosen by Antony Minghella to make a film about Hungarian Count László Almásy’s refuge. A ruined house in the Tuscany countryside is the recovery place of the protagonist in the 1992 novel by the Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient.
The former place of worship, with its bell tower of the XV century, today a farmhouse run by the Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza diocese, is the background to the segments of the 1997 film by the British director-winner of nine Oscar awards, two Golden Globes and six BAFTAs. It is often highlighted among the ochre hills of the surrounding valley covered by vineyards, rural residences and chestnut trees.
The cypress, declared a monument tree by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, is the typical plant of the zone and the whole region. The black poplars in San Quirico d’Orcia — XII submansio of the route of Sigerico – are two groups of trees which stand isolated on a hill, devoid of other tall trees and overlooking from the South a stretch of Via Cassia. The cypresses of the first set create a rhomboidal wood; the evergreen of the second set, on the other hand, are along a white road that leads to a farm and form two semicircles. The clerical, in his travel journal, calls it Sce Quiric.
San Quirico d’Orcia, forty-six kilometres from Siena, is a town of Etruscan origin with 2,700 inhabitants and is situated on a hill at an altitude of 424 metres above sea level. It is an example of typical Medieval urban structure. The city wall of the XV century is mostly intact and fourteen towers are still existing, some of which are incorporated in other structures nowadays. Via Dante Alighieri, the ancient Via Francigena, cuts the town in two. All the town monuments overlook this street: among them, we find the Collegiate Church of the XII century with its Romanesque exterior and its Baroque interior, the Chigi Zondarari building, a stone building of the XVII century located beside the Christian Church and today seat of the municipality.
A love for the territory
Vald’O, a literary winery, is situated at via Dante Alighieri 81 in San Quirico d’Orcia, and was founded in 2018 as an editorial office of cultural projects which focus on the Magnifica Terra, or Val d’Orcia. Antonio Cipriani, born in Tivoli and founder of this project with his wife Valentina Montisci, affirms: «We left Milan to Val d’Orcia three years ago. A paper publication was thus born and we started thinking about a space that could house our Open Editorial Office and was friendly. We conceived a method that would converse with this land and capture the cultural aspects. So the idea to wide open the doors on the Via Francigena was born, with a literary café: a Literary Winery».
«We are a bookshop, a meeting place of poetical, artistic, theatrical events, where to spend an evening tasting the local products. We have got books and magazines from all over the world, but just wines and food from the area. Nothing industrial, but only direct relationships with winemakers and farmers».
Under the assumption that the printed paper has its own role in the publishing market (“A good and well-printed book is beyond compare. No reading could be so satisfying as on paper”), Antonio Cipriani, former chief editor of l’Unità, and Valentina Montisci founded a bookshop totally focused on independent publishing houses.
«We think that one of the problems bookshops face is that all are subject, more or less, to the same market logic. We do not love standardization, we just think that making the thought an action can be revolutionary. Or at least consistent with our way of seeing the world. Based on three Latin words: lentius, profundius, suavius. In this context the research of products within the independent publishing is interesting. And we like to bring up these works of art in our cultural outpost, without too much support by marketing».
Since October 2014, Antonio Cipriani has been part of the Collettivo Emergenze, a tour driven by the love for the territory and by the belief in the power of communication of the printed paper. Emergenze, founded by Cipriani with a group of artists and journalists, is an independent ad-free magazine, widespread throughout Italy.
Its success led the group to reinvent the mechanisms of the editorial distribution through the acquisition and development of the Edicola 518 space: a four-square-meter bookshop created on the remains of a Perugia historical newspaper shop. With this kiosk, located in front of the city’s patron Ercolano Church, the artists of Emergenze closed the loop of their editorial production, by projecting, realizing, printing, and distributing their magazine directly.
At Vald’O a selection of Italian and foreign magazines is on sale: «The work on International magazines is fruit of our relationship with Edicola 518. We have had the opportunity to select very good ones over the years. And we have included them in our Literary Winery. We like to have travel, art, photography magazines. We live in a small town of 2,700 inhabitants, but some of the customers come from afar and are impressed with our choices».
Literary and wine-food events are organized here. «We try to organize an event in our spaces once a week, by alternating book presentations with authors, reading aloud, wine presentations, farm dinners; we have organized poetry and theatre nights. Sometimes the events are carried out on the street, in the pedestrian area in front of Vald’O or at the municipal theatre».
Vald’O is a space that is well integrated in the context of San Quirico town: «A place where typical shops, artisans, the butcher’s, the carpenter’s and the bookshop are still there». The furniture and the interior reflect the surrounding reality. «The Literary Winery is furnished with the blacksmith’s and carpenter’s works, with art and traditional objects that we retrace from our present and the past we recreate with our daily action».
Via Dante Alighieri, 81
San Quirico d’Orcia, Italy