The medieval village of Pari, located some 25 km south of Siena is a particularly appropriate center from which to consider the future.
The village is located on a hill top and surrounded by magnificent views of the heavily wooded Tuscan countryside. The surrounding area is given over to olive groves and grape vines and small-scale farming. In winter wild boar are hunted in these woods.
The surrounding area has been occupied for well over 2000 years. The Etruscans certainly made use of the curative properties of the sulfur hot spring located below the village. In addition to burial areas close to Pari the remains of a major Etruscan town can be visited at Roselle some 40 km away.
One thousand years ago Pari had become a walled town of several hundred persons 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.
In 1676 representatives from the Republic of Siena visited Pari. Their report of 16 October 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."
Pari was also the spiritual home of the writer, Federigo Tozzi (1883-1920), who said that he was born in Siena "by chance" but he more truly belonged to "his father's house", on Via Cappucci, and the homes of his various Pari relations. The village, characters and surrounding countryside feature in his novels, poetry and essays.
Until the 1950s life in Pari had continued unchanged over the centuries. Moreover it was totally self-sufficient for its food, heat, furniture, shoes and clothing. A form of very durable linen was made from the local ginestra (broom) plant. Very little money circulated in the village and its economy was based on a system of exchange and barter for goods and services. What little money did enter the village came from the sale of its wine and, later, though the contraband smuggling of tobacco and salt (for preserving meat).
Today the village continues in a remarkable state of preservation. With the coming of the industrial and economic revolution to Central Italy in the 1950s and '60s Pari's population began to drop from 1500 to the present 250 as people left to find work in the cities. However, by using Pari as a conference and learning centre, we hope to provide stimulation and new possibilities, particularly to the young people of the area.