A Renaissance Garden in San Quirico D'orcia

The Mystery of the Horti Leonini

Patricia McCobb

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Corriere di Siena, Pienza/ May 16, 2010

It took a writer from New York who has chosen to divide her time between the States and San Giovanni d’Asso, the Landscape Architect Patricia McCobb, to tell the story of Diomede Leoni, too long omitted from the historical studies of the Val d’Orcia. In her new book, A Renaissance Garden in Val d’Orcia: the Story of diomede Leoni and his Horti Leonini, she writes about Diomede Leoni and the mystery of the building of his splendid garden in San Quirico, one of the singular pearls of the Val d’Orcia. The building of the Horti Leonini in the late 1500s began with the story of this man from San Quirico. Leoni, while still young, left his birthplace for Rome, where he lived amongst the elite of the artistic world.

An official letter written by the secretary of the Grand Duke Francesco I de’Medici in 1580, shows that the Medici had repayed Leoni for the construction of the Horti. The same letter brings to light certain details of the life of Diomede Leoni: he was an illegitimate son of a notary, inherited a piece of land in San Quirico from his father, and he built his ‘horti’ for the comfort and convenience of travelers and, in particular, the nobility that passed through the town on the Via Romea. Further research shows that Diomede Leoni was one of three friends at the bedside of Michelangelo when he died. In fact, Leoni was the only one to write a testimony about the last minutes of life of the artist. The book about Diomede Leoni and his Horti Leonini was presented yesterday with the support of the Comune of San Quirico d’Orcia and the Tagliolini Foundation in Palazzo Chigi by the writer herself.

Fabio Pellegrini