Italian Tenuta: time machine
a timeless story told by tangerine trees
Sveta opened heavy doors of an abandoned restaurant, and massive fascination confronted me. Huge shining chandeliers, a small door unveiling the textile elevator, realistic paintings, and labyrinths of rooms. I am walking back in time in these narrow emptied corridors; we arrive at a home altar with a magnificent presepe – the nativity scene of Jesus, where the artisanal Neapolitan tradition brings the handmade figures.
Some of the interior decorations (there was way more - never enough photos for it)
A former living room
Presepe - Neapolitan Christmas Tradition. Handmade
Absolutely fantastic elevator wall
Could not turn on the light - had to lightene verything up by our phones
Entrance to the altar
The home altar itself
These memories are colored by the land full of old stone sculptures overgrown by trees, tangerines, and a mix of oranges with lemons (which Sveta told me not to eat – but I still indulged in that sour taste for a while), eating homemade farmer's mozzarella and the only time in my life I actually loved olives. These are the memories of an island of serenity in-between the quick-paced life I have. For more than two months I struggled to describe this place in a village – it was something completely different from what I used to see, a blooming arched gate to another dimension, a bewitching world of tempered Italians. I always loved them – I adore this Italian warm, impulsive, and caring character and feel attracted to it, let it be artists, passersby, or rational engineers. At all times in my life and in different situations I could become convinced of how much of this Italian sun is concealed in their hearts and hospitality they offer.

Together with the language which I absolutely love it almost becomes a spell to me, which is constantly being put by this country. The language of impulsive love confessions – and the country of such – where even the plainest English words become sonorous melodies.

While Sveta mentioned that here it's just her, dogs, and birds, she shared a lot of stories. All of them would sound ridiculous in any other context than the Neapolitan village, but in the Southern air they rarely surprise — and seem natural.
This life and love I experienced during that week made it both desirable and repulsive to gain the theoretical ground beneath the memories; it made me wonder about the origin of such estates while wanting it to stay mysterious if I keep it sentimental. With this I simply figured out that such big tenuta's – a wonderful Italian word for the boring estate - most likely date back to the time when Italy was separated, and Naples was a part of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. One of the main problems was land distribution: majority of land was concentrated in the hands of few families, the Landed Oligarchy, while most of the population were dependent on the landlords for work. While it might seem like some distant time ago – it has indeed been a while since the XIX century – these areas are still remnants of those times. Big estates are rarely met at the Northern part of Italy and become a specific feature for the South, telling its own history. Wealth imbalance at that time has caused today's differences of the South and the North of Italy, both on a bigger scale economy, and a present strong nepotism; the inequality which is up to the future to be solved and the spirit of which had a surprisingly big effect on a picture of Southern Italy.
The place itself was bought on a gradient from those times to today: built as a big summer house in the 1960s for the whole big family, it became a starting point of this tenuta. Once children grew up, new houses appeared on the land; now making it a family estate with four buildings other than the restaurant. Each of them is the extended story of a family: while all of them share the atmosphere, each one remains special. Paintings and sculptures, somewhere – dolls and figures; all of it reminding of Italy in different ways.

(a bit of a creepy) collection of baby dolls
Full of statues, flowers, and tangerine fields, the Tenuta is breathing with summer already in mid-April. I am staying on a tangerine tree and the dogs are laying in the grass next to me; I am inhaling the air which makes me think – how many happy family memories does this place hide?

Those fields, combined with vast land, which now feels untamed and liberated, tell a story through its ornamental fences and pergolas together with stone sculptures. What was it: did I become a part of a forgotten Italian story from the last century or are these architecture and the tenuta a time machine, which brought my imagination to the way its life had been before? Staying in the middle of the field with a sketchbook and looking around me, the time is freezing as a flash which creates polaroids, in real-life. I stop to think and feel these subtle sounds, trying to overhear previous ages; and I manage to do so. It is worth to press a pause button and watch, listen and perceive; this is when architecture and details whisper to you the story of the place. If, by following a quote of Goethe, architecture is a frozen music, then this melody becomes a timeless matter, which in the meantime has a power to bring us back to its origin, where architecture, sculpture and art serve as a time machine to transport people to decades and centuries behind.
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