Leaving the house without the camera lens is a bit like having no clothes on for him. Yet that day, which must have been an exception, he had only his eyes with him to capture that first meeting with the countryside surrounding Speziale. By simple chance, or perhaps fate: his failure to take that first picture is what would push him to return over and over again. It is “through the eyes” of Daniele Coricciati that the Spezyale project is being told. Daniele is a photojournalist who tends to lean away from any posing or staging. He is one of the many creative presences who pass through our realm. Camera in hand, with nothing but a rudimentary map marked in pencil, he has returned several times in recent years, season after season, to capture the various stages of the Spezyale adventure, in the heart of the Apulian countryside.
Olive groves as far as the eye can see, the sea a sapphire-coloured swath just barely visible off in the distance, and straight railway tracks cutting through the landscape are what make up the indelible memories from that first encounter, which took place at the height of the spring season. Spezyale experienced its very own spring back then as well: our house was a building site then, and the typical lamia stone structures all around were nothing but projects we would eventually pour our creative energy and prospects into. Ours was an industrious, yet unobtrusive work pace, a bit like the ants in these parts as they make their way back up along the tree bark. The thing that really left an impression on Daniele – as he recounts today – is the respect shown for the surrounding landscape, and the ability to listen to it; an integral part of the Spezyale model.
When he returned to photograph the landscape it was already summer. All around Lucy, Stairway to Heaven, and the various other projects which were taking shape during those months, the freshly cut wheat shimmered like a golden carpet, as if competing in brightness with the blinding sun of the South.
Autumn in Puglia does not make its entrance with the usual falling of leaves, but rather with the land becoming brown after ploughing. We allow ourselves a little break by taking walks in the countryside surrounding Speziale, to pick olive and laurel leaves which we make our teas with. Back at the house we turn on the kettle and reopen our sketchbooks to make note of the shape of the leaves and the colours we came across while outside. Even Daniele, when in the vicinity, loves to stop by and wander down the little stony road to capture all the details of the landscape while taking photographs.
Amongst the vast palette that is Speziale, white is the rarest colour of them all. It is a real rarity to ever see snow in these parts, what with being just a few steps from the sea and all. Yet, as if magically, we awoke one winter morning to a pure white, all enveloping quilt. Daniele, who was leaving for somewhere that day, actually took a detour just to capture the scene. “It looks like a fairy tale, or a dream”, he commented, while leaning on the railing of the terrace, his lens poised out over the olive trees, beyond the railway, to where the outline of the sea starts.
This is the secret of Speziale: it is not simply a retreat place, but a reservoir of constant, dynamic creativity.