It had never happened to me before — I walked into a store just to buy something and left with a wonderful idea instead. But, come to think of it, I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. Certain corners of Pienza hold all kinds of strange surprises. I love spending my vacations in Pienza because the quiet lives of all sorts of people take place amidst the peace and calm of its space — everyone from artisans with fascinating cultures and traditions behind them to tourists so carefree that they forget to go home.

On the scenic route that winds behind the Cathedral is the workshop where Luisa worked on her fine linens. Going to the workshop of Luisa — who is always warm and welcoming — was a pleasure beyond just shopping for the new season, giving me a chance to enjoy interesting conversation, easy smiles, and good music in the background. On that afternoon, notes of Tchaikovsky playing on the radio whisked me back to my adolescence in the fields of Clarens, while they brought Luisa back to the music stands of the orchestra she played in. She was a violinist, which was news to me. A violinist and musical archivist… her sentimental streak had taken her far from the spotlights of a leading opera house and brought her to Val d’Orcia. But once music has taken hold of you, it doesn’t let go easily. So when I mentioned to her that I had a property for which I wanted to come up with an original use, she lit up and suggested I use it for music. We thought it all out together. The space, the quiet woods, the musician friends — we had everything we needed, including that touch of craziness needed to make an idea reality.

Joy. The key idea was joy. Sharing and expressing the joy you feel playing a musical instrument, whatever it may be, and challenging yourself, the joy of being surrounded by nature, of igniting new friendships and opening to others, to everyone with an international code: A440.

The first step had been taken.

The embodiment of joy and music is expressed for me in Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra.