It took almost one year to move the 15.000 square meters of dirt, where now our Bonsai vines are growing.
My childhood dreams of steering a dumper with six driving wheels and digging with a 30 tons’ Caterpillar became true. Hours and hours were spent in digging: I was having fun while saving on manpower.
In the end a big hammer was needed, because at 10 meters depth the soil is so compact that not even the brutal grab of the Caterpillar 300 could move it. Nevertheless, the authorities imposed on us a basement made of… reinforced concrete! Exactly what I wanted to avoid and that was not even necessary. “Seismic area”: that’s what they had been repeating to us.
At the same time, I was telling everybody: “Do you see all these castles around here? If this is really a seismic area, how many times should have they been rebuilt? They have been here since 1200 BC”.
However, before the law you can do nothing but being wrong, and I had to use reinforced concrete foundations.
Yet, we did not give up and we excogitated a trick to avoid the magnetic fields: we connected the iron wires of the reinforced concrete with some duct tape and plastic strapping, interrupting electrical continuity. Later on, we verified with a tester that no electrical fluxes were passing through a wire and the other.
Beppe Vargas hammered a pole in the centre of the clearing and pulled an iron wire 13 meters and 22 centimeters long: he named it “the compass”.
He poured the lime mortar on the concrete foundations and laid down the first brick.
Afterwards he measured the distance with the compass, so it was equal in both extremities of the brick: I will never forget it!
The cellar was finally being built. We started with the walls and then the centrings made of polystyrene, sustaining the vault.
Little by little the tunnel was being developed, one meter a day… when we were lucky.
When the walls reached the planned height, Beppe Vargas started walling up a 6 meters radius dome.
He came up with a stroke of genius I did not expect: he planted a 10m tall steel shaft again in the centre of the building.
At a later stage, using some ball bearings, he created another compass with the same bending radius of the dome. Imagine a thin curved pole, slightly touching the wall to be raised and reaching every single brick.
With this compass he could reach every single point and easily determine where every brick should be laid down.
There was a hidden beauty in seeing all those bricklayers pulling the compass for all the circumference of the dome, while six or seven of them were laying the bricks down in different areas.
Much harmony and a kind of magic spread clearly from the rhythm of the work and everyone could feel it.
With the harvest 2015 the cellar started to work: this was more than an exceptional year.
The weather was simply perfect. It was hot when needed and it rained the right amount of water when the soil became too dry. I welcomed this gift of Nature as a sign of good auspice for this new cellar.
The workers told me they worked very well there. On one hand, it seemed uncomfortable because it was downhill, but on the other hand it looked practical, as we had everything at our fingertips, and we could pour without using pumps. I feel they were happy to work in such a magical and harmonic environment.
Also our guests, joining numerously, feel this harmony almost by instinct. When reaching the Pantheon many of them remain enchanted by its shape and by its perfect acoustics. This is, in fact, a gift of Nature that we did not forecast while making the project.
One day Marco Geronimi and his son came into the Pantheon and they started singing a Baroque chant: their voice gave us goosebumps because it was reinforced by the echo inside the Pantheon
For this reason, I decided to call my friend Mauro Clementi, a specialist in sound systems. He creates loudspeakers of a fine quality: we also have a new project together.
I want a loudspeaker made by Mauro in the centre of the Pantheon, as to spread the finest Classical music. As the experiment made by Masaru Emoto demonstrates, water is sensible to music.
Wine, since it is made mostly by water, will then become even more harmonious.
Visiting ancient sites, also in this region, I observed always the same thing: the poorer the men, the more they used to gain in return in terms of time
And they dedicated this time to beautify things around, such as houses, churches and villages. If you pay attention to every token of the past, from the houses of the farmers to cathedrals, you will see that this concept repeats itself. I call it “the richness of the poverty”, intending the capacity to invest time in creating beauty.
At Le Ripi we were lucky: in the first years, the investments made into the vineyards and the refurbishment had not permitted to invest into the cellar. We needed to wait. During this time span, 7 years long, we were able to examine the project in deep and we reached the final idea of a cathedral dedicated to wine. If the circumstances had been different, we probably would have had a cellar in reinforced concrete.
As we were forced to be thrifty, our choices had to be more accurate and this cellar has eventually costed slightly less than the same surface in cement.
This project can leave a proof for whoever wants to build in the future, and it represents a pretty simple teaching: a very slow and scrutinized preparation of a project permits to build in bio-architecture with limited costs. As a result, you obtain an outcome to be proud of.