The Beautiful Summer
Having something in common with Loquet's film of the month, The Beautiful Summer is the story of a woman, as told by a man. Putting this somewhat problematic fact aside, this short coming-of-age novel has been hailed as one of the forgotten classics of the twentieth century, and it's not hard to see why.
Set in 1930s Turin, sixteen year old Ginia embarks on a friendship with an older, more experienced young woman called Amelia, and is thus introduced to the bohemian community of which she is a part. Falling in love with one of its artists, Ginia begins to confront her own body and the bodies of those around her, uncovering the simultaneous ease and complications of friendship, sex and to some extent, womanhood.
Quietly accurate in its observations, Cesare Pavese's fictional account of Ginia's first summer of freedom is engaging and sympathetic. One feels again the tumult of being young and unsure, and yet utterly convinced of your own rightness of thinking. Despair is quickly followed by hope, and serious subjects weigh heavily, or are dismissed out of hand. Arguably, teenage life in a nutshell.
From the bold, riotous illustrations of the opening credits, to the final shot of a radiant Jane leaning as far as she can out of the train window to wave at her lover as the train speeds away, the 1955 Technicolor romance Summertime is, fittingly, the perfect film to watch after a day in the sun.
Utterly endearing, you may have expected nothing less, knowing from film and fashion lore that you will be wooed by Katharine Hepburn's impeccable wardrobe and the undeniable delight of a 1950s Venice shot in summer. You may however, not expect to be so captivated by Hepburn's straightforward and sensitive portrayal of an older American woman looking for love. While in other ways the film sits firmly within its time, Jane Hudson's joy at travelling solo – wide-eyed and never without her camera – is tempered by an exploration of her loneliness, and allows the film to explore a universal experience that moves it beyond pure fluff.
We arrive one hot, languid day in late June, visiting Villa Lena after a trip to Florence. Located in the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, this unique agriturismo combines hotel, biodynamic farm, restaurant and art foundation.
Those in-residence at the foundation – a rolling list of international artists, musicians, writers, architects, chefs and agricultural experts – live in the nineteenth century Italian villa that stands central to the estate, while hotel guests can choose between single rooms, apartments or private villas converted from the original outhouses that surround it. We stay in Fattoria (previously the stables), our apartment's high ceilings, stonework and large french windows offset by stylist Clarisse Demory's signature – and perfect – mix of Ikea with antiques.
Days are spent alternately lounging by the pool and exploring as much as we can of what Villa Lena has to offer: 8am yoga on the deck, foraging for wild flowers, working in the vegetable garden, wine tasting, chats with the artists in their studios, and walks to the nearby abandoned village of Toiano Vecchio in which only two people live. At the end of each day, guests and artists gather to share a communal evening meal prepared by the current chef-in-residence with ingredients grown on the estate or sourced from the local area. For someone who spent their youth watching Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty on repeat, this place feels like a dream.