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The magic of the Scarzuola

The magic of the Scarzuola

“…alla Scarzuola, quando qualcuno mi osserva che la parte nuova, creata da me, non è “francescana”, io rispondo: naturalmente, perché rappresenta il Mondo in generale e in particolare il mio Mondo – quello in cui ho avuto la sorte di vivere e lavorare – dell’Arte, della Cultura, della Mondanità, dell’Eleganza, dei Piaceri
(anche dei Vizi, della Ricchezza, e dei Poteri ecc.) in cui però ho fatto posto per le
oasi di raccoglimento, di studio, di lavoro, di musica e di silenzio, di Grandezze e Miseria, di vita sociale e di vita eremitica, di contemplazione in solitudine, regno della Fantasia, delle Favole, dei Miti, Echi e Riflessi fuori dal tempo e dallo spazio perché ognuno ci può trovare echi di molto passato e note dell’avvenire…”

Tomaso Buzzi

Walking in a dream. It is possible in Umbria. Far away from space and time. In a garden, listening to the light sound of the wind, you can remain trapped in a sweet oneiric prison.

Your thoughts run back to the shortly before consulted map. And to the name of the village that reveals the travel’s destiny: not by chance, Montegabbione. Here, next to the village of Montegiove, not only the eyes lead the discovery of the places. You have to entrust to your soul that breaths and finds step by step, in a labyrinth of emotions, thoughts that have been segregated for a long time.

The Scarzuola is a vision. To grasp her you have to follow the sinuous track of a dirt patch. The white line draws rises and falls in the intense green of the wood. Then, a light ascent announces a cloister, protected by a stone wall. The bell signaling the wanderer precedes the opening of a door on a new world, two steps from home.

After the surrounding wall, a meadow and a church welcome visitors and hide from sight the architectures of the theater city

But where are we? There is a church and a silent garden, surrounded by cypresses and flanked by sacred aedicule. The sight is invaded by a sense of peace, a sudden serenity. The oasis of silence precedes other discoveries. And after the oratory it reveals a petrified and fascinating forest of symbols. All of a sudden an ideal city appears, conceived as an astonishing theatrical engine. Among sculptures, quotes and references to the classical antiquity, a mysterious scenography rises up.

A maze of art signs. Seven theaters in succession. And then, high above, the acropolis: a hill of bundled houses including, in reduced scale and with different proportions, the Parthenon, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Triumph Arch, the Pyramid, the Bell Tower and the Temple of Vesta. The mysterious and fragile tuff stone labyrinth seems an open air book of fantasy architecture. A compendium of garden art. A sparkling Mannerism anthology between stone monsters, monograms, bon mots, flags, animal sculptures, stretches of water, scales, steps and arcades.

There is no project, no map to follow, not only one road with an exclusive entrance or exit. Between the stone scenes time seems to stand still. And the walk become an initiation itinerary. We are on a stage or maybe in a museum. Absorbed in an arcane dream, in a “not finished” place, where you chase the infinite.

And we meander, attracted by the surrealistic “crazy  flight” of the man who ideated all this. Because the Scarzuola is, much more than any other thing, the stone autobiography of its author: Tomaso Buzzi, architect of princes and prince of architects.

Tomaso Buzzi, was born in Sondrio in 1900,

and died in Rapallo in 1981

AN ARISTOCRATIC OF THE TASTE

To understand this part of Umbria, first of all it is necessary trying to decipher the mystery of an extraordinary man. In a literary sense: outside of the box. Obsessed by catalogues but certainly impossible to catalogue. A liberal anarchist. A great bourgeois with the instinct of a rebel. Urbanist, architect and designer. A refined collector. But also philosopher, poet, scientist, magician and bibliophile. A socialite who dreamt of solitude. Attentive to the “bon ton” but enemy of conformism. Genial and contradictory. Almost forgotten by his colleagues, he was maybe the greatest Italian architect of the 19th century. His photos are rare and he is still not very popular. Among his many masterpieces, the Scarzuola, his most intimate and greatest work: Tomaso dedicated his last 24 years of a rich and turbulent life, voted to continuous aesthetic research. Because Buzzi was above all an aristocrat of the taste. And beauty remained the real and only standard of all his actions.

His date of birth and death (1900-1981) remember us that he crossed almost the entire “short century” with the sense of lightness and elegance of the predestined, often without being understood. His world, that was stroked more by queerness than by his many, extraordinary intuitions, esteemed him but didn’t understand him. And often relegated him in the easy portrait of the “crazy” artist: an elusive dandy, an insatiable snob.

He was born in Sondrio in a wealthy family. At the age of only 23 years he was already graduated, with highest grade, in engineering and architecture. He was immediately protagonist of the intense cultural life of the Milan of the Twenties: he founded the Urbanist’s Club, participated in a famous contest to redesign the city and organized art events of great success. In 1927 he created the design society Il Labirinto. Between 1932 and 1934 he was artistic director of the famous and legendary art glassmakers Venini from Murano. With Gio Ponti, famous architect, essayist and designer, he started a strong collaboration that made him writing for Domus, the first and most prestigious Italian architecture magazine. At neither 30 years he was already famous. Cherished as garden architect, inventor and restaurateur.

But his post-modern vision of architecture, in which style and technique were continuously corrupted, was too far away from the freethinking of the en vogue architects in the years of fascism. So he was emarginated. Or better, he emarginated himself, disgusted by a lack of moral in the leading class, by the wheeling-and dealing of his colleagues and by the pandemic corruption. He decided to dedicate his energy to private clients with the illusion to be freer to express his personal vision of architecture. In the mid-30s even the human and professional fellowship with Ponti crumbled, to whom Buzzi never forgive his affinity with the Mussolinian ideology.

So, since then, till the 50s and for the rest of his life, Tomaso became the very cultured architect of a chic and wealthy world of which he followed the moves and for which he designed among whirling parties, theater premiers and luxury vernissages, villas, palazzi, swimming-pools and luxury apartments, between Cortina, Forte dei Marmi, Saint Moritz, Cap d’Antibes, Florence and Como Lake. In the years of the “economic boom” and the “Dolce Vita” he was the creator of the famous “Terrazze Martini”, dedicated to the aperitif ritual, the distinctive sign of the success of new and old rich  and  ancient aristocratic families.

A SECRET LIFE

In a few seasons, Buzzi is one of Italy’s most famous and rich architects. He decorates the residence of the Agnelli family in Villa Perosa and the one of the Pirelli’s, the Marzotto’s and other industrials leading the economic “boom”. He is contended by a great number of politicians, ecclesiastics and intellectuals. He snubs his colleagues who he considers provincial and academic and he entrusts his reflections on architecture only to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He teaches “Real Life Drawing” at the Polytechnic University in Milan with enthusiasm. He cites Delacroix and repeats with him:

“Drawing is my daily prayer”. His creative frenzy, together with the incredible freehand technique, applies on the most different materials: from tablecloth to lace, from crochet to frames, from table clocks to gardens. He decorates also luxury ships and takes care of the set-up for the Triennale art exhibition. He lives at the center of a golden and gossipy world that he crosses far and wide, in a carousel of high-society appointments, so frenetic that they make even the construction of a kitchen in his luxury house in Rome unnecessary. Buzzi dispenses the beauty of his creations on a privileged humanity, touched by the pomp but often far away from good taste. And he pours the pungent viciousness of evil jokes into the cocktails. As the one reserved to an annoyed countess from Rome, astonished by his success as an architect and maybe who wanted to make only a compliment. The lady commented. “In Rome there is a new disease, called buzzite…” Tomaso answered with ironic wickedness: “Don’t be afraid. It is not contagious: cretins are immune”.

Ambassador Giulio Del Balzo described, stricken by his vitality, in a few lines the fascination of this personality. “He felt in love with everything, from trees to stones, from insects, to books, to cathedrals…”. Buzzi starts to travel, in all continents. He restores and designs some of the most beautiful Italian embassies in the world. He is eaten up by curiosity and knowledge. But along with fame and success also his anxiety and the need of isolation grow. The same he transcribes, years later, in a note: “Even if I am living in between the people of the beautiful world almost as one of them, and working for my clients in a serious and professional way, I actually live a secret, dream life; in between my papers, my drawings, my paintings and my sculptures”.

In autumn 1956 during a trip to Mexico, next to Acapulco, he saw a small and refined cloister. And he confessed loud to his excursion fellows the want to retreat in a place like this, far away from the world. Marquis Paolo Misciatelli, owner of the Umbrian castle in Montegiove, told him about the small church of the Scarzuola, hidden in the green of the Umbrian land that was in search of a buyer.

For Tomaso, as always, a glimpse was enough to understand. And in January 1957 he signed the notary deed with which he became owner of the house that kept his soul forever.

Francesco uses the Scarza to build a shelter (fresco in the cloister of the Scarzuola)

DANTEAN LANDSCAPE

The Scarzuola takes its name from the scarza, the branch of a water plant that grows in the area and that still today is used by the farmers to patch seats. Right there, in a not precise period of the year 1218, Saint Francis from Assisi who returned from one of his frequent travels to Verna, built with his own hands a humble bed of scarza, next to some caves. His prayers originated also a miracle spring. Francesco planted then a laurel tree and roses, symbols of sacrality and beauty. And he stopped for some days in this solitary place that emanated a mystic aura. Some monks that followed the Saint built their hermitage there. Amongst them Senso, a religious from Perugia who lived for many years in the Scarzuola, delighted by the gift of ecstasy and the tears and who finished his days right there, in the year 1270.

Long after the passage of Saint Francis, in 1282, Nerio di Bulgaruccio dei Conti di Marsciano, owner of those lands, built a church dedicated to the Most Holy Annunciation and a small oratory that he  entrusted to the care of the Friars Minor. After the death of his wife, he took on the habit of the penitent. Then his children inherited the cloister that became also the tomb of the noble family. So the friars, with the power of their prayers, became the guardians of the Earl’s tombs. Under the pavement of the church Nerio and many of his descendants were buried, among which even Todeschina, the minor daughter of the captain of fortune Gattamelata of Narni, who married one of the nobles of Marsciano. An inscription, still today, warns that those violating the eternal peace of the crypt will be cursed forever.

Already at the beginning of the 13th century, for admission of the Franciscans, the Scarzuola was “the most eccentric cloister of the seraphic province”. Father Benvenuto Bazzocchini, in his Chronicle, describes it like this: “No carriage road, no nearby village: above a little bit of sky and around the murmuring of the wind and the woods”.

A Dantean landscape. A shadowed forest in which Buzzi found himself after more than half he journeyed his life.

Today, guiding the visitors and ferrying them with masterly skills into the secret world of the genial architect, there is an original, evasive and provocative Charon: Marco Solari, Tomaso’s heir. He welcomes the tourist hidden behind  nervous features and dark sunglasses. Armed with Buzzi’s original drawings, that now he waves high as a flag and now he hides them behind his back, continuously mocking and amazing the audience with lapidary sentences, sudden silences and questions that remain suspended in the air, as the eco of the funny and yet worrying laugh that accompanies him.

His words, along the streets of this labyrinth, that Buzzi defined “reign of petrified fantasy”, recall a forgotten slogan of ’68: “A laugh will bury you”. Because, whatever happens, from here you come out thoughtful, satisfied, euphoric and maybe perplex. But not indifferent. And surely different than when you came in.

The notes of Tomasi Buzzi, that Marco Solari carries with him when he guides the tourists in the Scarzuola

Marco Solari inherited this unique hermitage in 1982. When he arrived for the first time, he saw the sacred and the profane city besieged by grass, half buried by the lush nature of this places. Since then, like an archeologist, he dug for years, with patience in the enormous bulk of notices that Tomaso conserved in his secret shelter. He preserved and completed Buzzi’s projects with a faithful and meticulous work that costs him three decades of his energies. And so the surrealist city has reemerged.

Buzzi thought about his creation as “a small Pompei of a single man and a lonely man. A carcass,  an empty shell, a fossil shell, a skeleton, a petrified shout”. Now, thanks to Solari, prisoner like the curious tourists of a day of Tomaso’s dream, the Scarzuola still talks. But to understand you have to listen. And face the discovery trip free from prejudices.

SAINT FRANCIS IN LEVITATION

The surprises start as soon as you pass the church door. The walls of a 16th century chapel show 14 saints with heads lacerated by hatches and necks and cheeks pierced by swords and daggers: the still seraphic look of the splatter Franciscans seem to cross the thoughtful one of the nearby sculpture of a Madonna dressed like an ancient doll.

Not far away, you are impressed by the refined inlay work of a delicately worked wood ciborium and the elegance  of other relics upon which dominates a great silver lamp hanging from the ceiling. But the astonishment is even bigger in front of a fresco by an unknown author from 1240: it shows Francis in levitation, in other words in the ecstatic act of raising up from earth, while contemplating, full of love, the crucified Crist. It is one of the first known images of the Saint from Assisi. An extraordinary work, for long time covered by plaster and coming out only mid-90s, almost by chance, when Marco Solari dismantled a build-in structure behind the choir. The painting faithfully follows the story related by Thomas of Celano in “First Life”, the most ancient biography of the Poor from Assisi: the feet of Francis disconnect from the ground and the Saint falls in trance while on his body stigmata, bleeding nails of Passion, appear.

Almost hidden, on the peak of the apsis, the Tau sign, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, symbol of a path of redemption that occupied a great importance in the life and in the actions of Saint Francis.

There is barely the time to pull yourself together when, just outside the cloister, the attention is attracted by a door shutter of a friar’s cell on which you can see a surprising image of a naked Saint Francis, with a glass of wine in his hand, in the joyful act of cheering. It is the first known image of the Saint as “holy jester”. A carefree caricature engraved by an unknown friar. It is astonishing that he escaped the censorship of the superiors, most of all when you look on the date of the work, impressed right under the indecent image: 1738, long before the Age of Enlightenment and the anticlerical fury of the Napoleonic troops. The door, removed from the friar’s cell, for many years was even used as closing for the cloister’s pigsty. Maybe, more than a blasphemous graffiti, it is the trace of a faraway hedonist heresy, that for centuries disturbed the Franciscan order: the one of the so called “fraticelli” (Spiritual Franciscan), the followers of Bentivenga da Gubbio who in the first years of the 13th century preached that as God is love in all its forms, Hell and Sin don’t exist and therefore also friars could freely abandon themselves to carnal desires.

The Church sentenced those heretic Franciscans already in 1318 to prison and death. But the plant of heresy was not totally eradicated: it survived for a long time in the countryside along with pagan beliefs and ancient superstitions.

In the card deck of life that we have on tap, also Buzzi saw himself as a jester, outside the archetype masks that we wear every day. As the arcane of the “reckless” in the tarots he wanted to represent his existence outside the bars of space and time. Not having an assigned number and neither a double. And moving beyond the stiffness of the schemes. As the man with the bells, he wanted to have the possibility to color and set to music the world around him as he wanted. Maybe also for this reason at the Scarzuola there was no electricity and neither heating or a telephone.

THE WINGED EYE AND THE DRAGONFLY

Outside the sacred part, the symbolic garden is announced by a revealing sign: “a winged eye”. The sculpture by Buzzi is a homage to Leon Battista Alberti, the great Renaissance architect and humanist, recalled in a famous bronze medal of Matteo dei Pasti. But it is also a self-quotation: “The Eye” was the nickname that the two sisters of Buzzi have given to Tomaso, who since he was a child, observed and drew all he saw at a phenomenal speed. He preserved this habit also as an adult: when he was travelling, by train or ship, he always carried a painter notebook to depict on the white sheets all the images striking him. Gae Aulenti, who was his student at the Polytechnic University of Milan, told about the astonishment of the students in front of their shaman professor, who was able to trace signs even with a pencil stuck into his navel.

The sculpture of the Winged Eye, a homage to Leon Battista Alberti, introduces into the profane city

Buzzi used to draw even during the concerts at the Scala, in the darkness of the theater, to catch the music, “mysterious form of time” of the beloved Jorge Luis Borges, in images.

And right from the Winged Eye you reach in a few steps the Fountain of Time, build next to the spring of Saint Francis and the ancient fishery that the friars used to raise trouts. It is a tiny and secret vegetable garden, prelude of the architectonic tale that awaits the traveler. The scarza is growing on the walls and inside the beautiful fountain, on which a hourglass dominates, ancient measure of days and nights, together with the charming sculpture of a lion, symbol of force that is needed to face the trials reserved by life.

In the water, the alchemical element that keeps the memory, mixed up between mud and wet leafs, the dragonflies live. It doesn’t seem by chance that they live the humid station of departure of the initiation path: the dragonfly crawls in the slurry but then it leaves its shell to which it seemed damned forever and flies along the shadowy paths and the vaults of the rampant plants.

In the garden designed by Tomaso Buzzi, delimiting three paths, the traveler has to choose the way he wants to follow in front of the enigma of three doors of topiary vegetation.

Passing through the left one, Gloria Dei, the path will bring you back to the cloister, to the surrender of the contemplative life.

The right one is called Glora Mundi. But it is the blind alley of the influences that any individual has to experience: the path of fame, vanity and stack of material richness obfuscate the mind and does not lead anywhere. So you have to retrace your steps.

The third door, with the writing Mater Amoris on top, is enclosed at its sides by two 8 carved in the wrought iron: the numbers of the infinite. They sign the passage of a great Renaissance garden, a house without roof and with green walls. It is the labyrinth from which you have try to come out in order to know yourself. A limit between the sacred city and another one, ideal and profane, secret and interior, where thanks to knowledge and experience we can free us from every slavery. And understand that we can be creator of our own destiny.

A MYSTERIOUS BOOK

The guide for this trip starts from the lecture of a mysterious book that Tomaso Buzzi leafted through when he was a child and from which he was fascinated for his whole life: Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, written by Francesco Colonna, a libertine friar from Treviso who lived in the second half of the 14th century. The “Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream” tells the walk towards the secret truth of Poliphilo’s world, where he founds in his dream the loved nymph Polia by overpassing obstacles of all kind, among phenomenon and traps. The theme of the path is Love, capable to win even over death.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is also the first printed book with images: 196 marvelous wood engraves, most of which are credited to Andrea Mantegna. It is considered the most beautiful book ever printed. It was published in 1499 at Manuzio, the famous printing press in Venice. And five hundred years after its first edition, it still preserves the obscure fascination of its authors most famous motto, the magic words of the initiation knowledge: “Festina lente”. Meaning “Hurry slowly”.

Still today it is the most arduous text of the Italian literature: the Boccacio style sentences are filled with erudite quotes, Latinisms and enigmatic expressions. Flavored with herbals, bestiaries and assorted extravagances. An ancient and yet very modern tale whose complicated and enchanting language recalls, in a surprising way, the mature novels of James Joyce.

An allegorical trip of the soul, in search of the real knowledge, between nightmares and marvels: “Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream, where it is shown that all human things are nothing else than a dream and where, at the same time, many things are remembered that are worth to be known.” Colonna describes an ideal city in which ruined temples, fountains, obelisks, pyramids, inscriptions, lapidary and lush gardens follow one another.

So, from the Mater Amoris door, you enter a tunnel of leaves and reach a stone ship placed in the center of a water basin, ready to set out in search of the loved nymph. Along the journey Poliphilo will have to face and tame also the monsters of the subconscious to reach finally Citera, the isle of Venus, goodness of Beauty.

Tuff, petrified Vulcan ash destined to return dust, perfectly interprets the character of temporariness that Buzzi wanted to embed in his architectures

ARCHETYPES AND RUINS

The book is one of the keys to open the mysteries of the Scarzuola. But it is not the only one. Buzzi was a passionate sustainer of the Ruinism, an artistic trend where the works had to be left free at the mercy of time, to be than shaped freely by nature.

For choice he realized his ideal city with tuff stone, a friable and porous material. A deciduous stone, as life is. Perishable and suffering in front of the winter frosts and the signs of the seasons. For this, from the city built in the thick wood, there is no definitive project left over. So the work could return ash and be swallowed by the landscape. According to Buzzi the “not finished” gave the architectures the fourth dimension, the one of time. Tomaso wrote: “The buildings change owners, they are modified or destroyed, the collections wasted, squandered. Only the ruins remain: as Villa Adriana, Villa d’Este, Bomarzo or the Abbeys as San Galgano.”

Also the Scarzuola appears in his imagination, “The metamorphosis of a man in a stone ruin”. A dream of architecture that becomes real. But in the sea of subconscious no precise  and defined ships are travelling, only “sketches and whims”. The dream of Tomaso is the one of all those who are travelling in it. There is space for the personal subconscious where what the conscious would like to remove or cancel is conserved or agitated. But the collective unconscious is explored too, composed by archetypes, the schemes of instinctive behavior of which Jung was speaking. Inherited and the same for all of us, in dreams, mythologies and the religious traditions. Of the man. As birth, death, the image of father and mother, the relation between genders.

BETWEEN MONSTERS AND LABYRINTHS

In the dream of stone that becomes poetry it is possible to leave all shells that envelop us. The theme of the metamorphosis and the journey is to read while walking. At first haven, the ideal city shows all its light from the stages of the Sun and the Moon. The vision is magnificent. Because life is a theater in which everyone plays a part. The scenography, as in a dreamy representation, can change, be taken apart and be born again. In life and dream nothing is as it  seems, everything can be changed and reinvented continuously, in an eternal presence.

And so Tomaso Buzzi, the forgotten architect, pitches still today on the green meadow of his garden precious pieces of the many things he has seen during his life and then he reassembles them, together with us, in a continuous psychoanalytical game.

In front of our eyes, the images of the fantastic architectures with the monsters of Bomarzo, the Scala of Milan, the labyrinth of Chartres, the hallucinations of Arcimboldo, the visions of Bosch…

We look to the panorama next to some glass walls that at sundown reflect the architectures of the Acropolis. They are the mirrors hanging on the porous walls of the Arnia theater, the building that Tomaso wanted to call like this for the “diligent buzzing of the apes called buzzicare”. A homage to the incessant work of his thoughts, repeated in other symbols in golden wrought iron dispersed all around. Small jewels, that stand out all over among the stones: Apes indicating the industriousness and talent, Wings of Mercury telling about the ambition and perseverance and the Compass, ode to geometry and mathematic precision. Even if he didn’t make many calculations and drew free hand his projects. And when he built he explained by voice to his workforce volumes and measures, almost improvising.

As in dreams, at the Scarzuola the proportions does not exist. The ideal city is made in levels: down under the rocks and the darkness of Piranesi’s prisons, cave of the obscure forces that imprison the man in his bestial instincts. Then the houses of the nobles and the artisans, the industrious places of work that redeem the man. On top, the marvels of architecture and the places of the soul.

We are travelling into our subconscious and into the author’s one. Together we meet Dalì and Magritte, Serlio, Vitruvius and Palladio. Different places are united in the same place. At the center of the vision a great and sleepless eye made of tuff stone: from the pupil you can catch sight of the small studio of Tomaso from where the artist, without being seen, dominated the vision of many marvels. All around, science and whims mix up with the splendors and mysteries of History. And in the labyrinth also the monsters of mind can finally be curbed.

The great watch of the Tower of Time incorporating the mathematic sequence of Fibonacci

THE SHIP OF MEMORY

Seen from the top, the Scarzuola is a ship that carries us in time and memory. We are stern: counterclockwise we are following the wake of the soul and discover seven theaters in rapid succession: the Tower of Time, inspired by the sequence of Fibonacci with the great watch in Ouroboros shape. Then the Capitello house and the Stemma house. And the Great Mother, a giant in stone without head but with gigantic breasts: it is Mother Earth, figurehead of the fantastic ship of the Scarzuola, ward of two doors: the one of science and technic and the one of art and fantasy. It is Mater, the substance we are made of and from which we separated too much: it has a magmatic heart and asks us to still enflame in order to find ourselves. Not very far away, we step captivated into the temple of Apollo. And we cross the one of Eros, till reaching the theater of the Body with the effigy of the universal man imprinted on the ground.

To read the Scarzuola is a strenuous exercise. For Buzzi his life work had to remain “mysterious because incomprehensible to the most” and could be understood only “by a few unhappy elected”, able to face the path of knowledge.

Tomaso yearned for representing at sundown in his surreal city “The Magic Flute” by Mozart, the opera that he felt most close to the spirit of his creation: a musical journey “across the night, towards the light”. But he considered the abyss between the hero Tamino, who faces the traps of the darkness to arrive to knowledge and Papageno who is content to satisfy his primary needs, gives up the effort and sings satisfied: “Fighting isn’t my thing. I don’t basically want any wisdom either. I’m a kind of child of nature, taking pleasure in sleep, food and drink; and if it were even possible some time for me to capture a pretty little wife”.

The courage to live is mostly the one of being born again. And presumes the descent to the underworld. After the theater path, at the end of a descent, a stone monster awaits the traveler, who will be swallowed by the great mouth of a whale with gaping jaws. Tuff waves simulate water in the metaphor of death and resurrection. From Giona to Pinocchio, any initiation ritual asks for a passage of sufferance. And the man, often called for greater tasks, has to be able to face the pain, form of consciousness.

The tower of the broken pillar is a place of meditation, with seats inside

Spit into the world, outside the womb of the beast, you have time to meditate inside the Tower of the broken pillar. We are dismembered and confuse, alone in front of the ascent that still awaits us, shot without warning on the enigmatic scene of a painting by Escher.

It is the moment in which the I recovers its scattered pieces and tries to resew itself. Awaitings, anxieties, fears and desires have mixed up already many times in the allegoric trip on the threshold of many unknown buildings. But the path of ascesis continues: from death to life, from darkness to light, from earth to air, from substance to spirit.

Now you can face the steep Scale of Life, flanked by high and orderly pillars. And step by step you climb up, the view and the horizon of the things change, appearing clearer and clearer and distinct, as the frontons, the spires, the cupolas and the roofs of the Acropolis that sparkles on the nearby hill. At the end of the ascent a door awaits us with the motto of the New Jerusalem: “Amor vincit Omnia”. Love wins over everything. The vital force that we have inside “moves the sun and the other stars.”

A CYPRESS HURT TO DEATH

The initiation path seems to be finished. But this is only another illusion: the filament of the path rewinds on itself, as in a spiral. And the new scenery that opens in front of our eyes shows the back of the city and also of the dream: at each view there is a different sight on the park and the sweet valley in which we are walking.

The reverse side of the buildings is also the one of the significance. The senses and centuries mix up with primary elements, in a alchemic fusion, as in the glance of Tomaso: you can see the earth in the orchestra of the wide theater and the water of the above fountain. And then fire, represented by a mask, that mocks the world from high above. Till the air, where a winged Pegasus made of iron and clay soars.

We are Poliphilo. With our heart freer, we set out in search of wisdom, passing next to the Tempietto of Flora and Pomona and the Water theater. Next to the basin for the naval battles, the arboreal organ with the canes represented by the cypresses. In the high above and circular Apollo Temple a Zen garden welcomes us: at the center the Tree of Memory, a cypress that in 1970 was stricken by a lightning.

The steep Stairway of Life, flanked by 13 lines of pillars

For Buzzi, a revelation. He wrote in one of his notes: “I think that the deathly hurt cypress, crossed from top to the roots by the lightning is the most close to heaven that is at the Scarzuola, because it had an electrocution, a direct contact between heaven and earth, it is the only thing that “feels like heaven”. This is why I want to preserve it at any cost.”

Behind the tree that stands out as a solitaire cathedral, you can see a slight and graceful line of a Tower of Babel that almost imprisons an enormous crystal, symbol of the child that we were before we know how to talk, still able to reflect on the divine light, destined then to be obfuscated by the weight of the years and the trite repetition of life without leaps, equal and predestined, smothered by the heavy shells of each daily existence.

Almost on the highest peak of the fantastic city the spiral step of Knowledge that still leads upwards. Buzzi equipped it with a system of metallic filaments, able to emit notes under the pressure of the feet of those that were able to arrive up here and realize the commandment of the Delphi oracle: “Know yourself”.

THAT MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

That sound matches with the world’s harmony. Because in the Acropolis the ascetic path is finally completed: from the darkness of the prisons we reached the apollonian beauty of the great monuments of the past, among the perennial stone signs of the occidental civilization. They are archetypes, empty inside, that hide an infinity of sections. And like in a termites’ nest, they reveal to the visitors many point of view on the underneath world.

Buzzi wrote that his opera was a “message in a bottle entrusted to the waves of time”. A melancholic desire of a great man, aware of his solitude. The stage built on tuff stone awaits the show of our individual lives where we are improvised actors in search of metamorphosis, music and applause. On the shores of the days of each one of us continuously infinite sand castles, fragile and intense, as the Scarzuola, are built. And expectations are cultivated.

After all, in dreams everything is possible. That was known very well also by Sante de Sanctis, the father of Italian psychology and neuropsychology, scholar of the mysteries of sleep, quoted many times by Freud and Jung in their writings.

He was born in Parrano, some kilometers south of the hermetic dream of Tomaso Buzzi. But this is another story.

Casavecchia Sergio