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Pari

Pari

Pari is located 38km south of Siena and is built on a hilltop surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and the heavily wooded countryside of the Maremma region of Tuscany. The village remains in a remarkable state of preservation and the surrounding landscape is home to wild boar, deer, pheasant and numerous species of plants, animals and birds.

One thousand years ago Pari had become a walled town of several hundred people grouped around the central castle, the residence of the Counts of Ardengheschi. By the 14th century the region had come under the government of the Sienese.

Until the 1950s life in Pari had continued unchanged over the centuries. Moreover, the population was totally self-sufficient for its food, heat, furniture, shoes and clothing. Wool, for example, was made from the fleece of the local sheep and a form of very durable linen was made from the ginestra (broom) plant. Mulberry trees surrounding the village attest to the use of silk. Very little money circulated in the village and its economy was based on a system of exchange and barter for goods and services. With the coming of the industrial and economic revolution to Northern and Central Italy in the 1950s and ‘60s Pari’s population began to fall from 1500 to the present 150 as people left to find work in the cities and to emigrate further afield.

For those contemplating a longer stay in Pari, cycling, hiking, rafting, horseback riding, oil and wine tasting can be arranged. Visits can be made to the sulfur hot springs followed by a cooling swim in the river (both free of charge) and then to the nearby thermal spa, which offers massages, inhalation treatments, thermal face and body masks.

The land around Pari has been occupied since prehistoric times. Later, the Etruscans and later the Romans, made use of the curative properties of the sulfur hot springs, located below the village. Recent excavations close to Pari have unearthed Etruscan burial chambers and artefacts and the remains of a major Etruscan town can be visited at Roselle some 35km away.

In 1676, representatives from the Republic of Siena visited Pari. Their report of October 16 of that year reads: ‘Pari is a community well organized and in good health. It has been well maintained and there are no animals wandering on the streets, which have been paved in stone. Work in the fields, as well as the care of vines and olive trees, would seem to be the true vocation of the community. Pari’s statutes give plenty of space to regulations concerning the cultivation and sale of wine and olive oil which is of good quality and constitutes an important part of Pari’s economy.’

To visit the Pari Center is to enter the life of a closely knit and welcoming community. The remaining families continue with their traditional farming methods and celebrating the festivals and seasons. Pari produces some of the best olive oil in Italy. The surrounding land is generally poor and rocky and there is a saying that, ‘The poorer the soil, the better the oil’ and this certainly holds true for the local oil. Some families produce a little more oil than they can consume and are willing to sell visitors a bottle or two at a very reasonable price. In addition to the production of oil and wine most families keep chickens and have a large kitchen garden and a few fruit and nut trees. Herbs are cultivated (and found wild in the countryside) both for cooking and for traditional medicines. One family produces honey and saffron. A few families keep a pig for their annual supply of prosciutto. There are small flocks of sheep on the surrounding hills kept, not only for their wool and meat, but also for pecorino cheese. Porcini mushrooms are gathered in the fall and wild asparagus in the spring. The men also hunt wild boar, deer, pheasant, hare, etc. in the local woods. So, it is still possible to live off the land—and to live well!

As well as being an ideal site for meetings and seminars Pari is also a perfect center for tourism. Day trips can be made to Florence and Siena by bus, while those with cars may wish go a little further afield to such centers of art and architecture as San Gimignano, Arezzo, Orvieto, Cortona, Montepulciano, Volterra, Pisa, Lucca, Rome and Assisi. And the sea is a 50-minute drive away.