Andrea Bocelli talks about his Versilia from Alpemare
Exclusively, our meeting with the famous Tuscan tenor a few days before his concert at the Teatro del Silenzio on 22 and 24 July
It is a lovely June morning, fresh and sunny, fragrant with the sweet scent of flowers and pine sap. Andrea Bocelli, with his wife Veronica, is waiting for us at his Beach Club, Alpemare, in Forte dei Marmi. Opposite the entrance to the Club, along the Aurelia road, nestled amidst cluster pines, with view of the sea at its front and the Apuan Alps at its back, is the villa where Bocelli lives with his family all year long. We meet with him to talk about the Versilian Coast, which the famous Tuscan tenor knows like the back of his hand, and to celebrate an important anniversary: the tenth year of life of the ABF (Andrea Bocelli Foundation), the charity foundation, with headquarters in Florence, established by Bocelli to help people in need through national and international projects.
For how many years and why have you been living in Versilia?
I was raised in the countryside and I moved here around the mid-1990s, basically for health reasons, as I suffered from a bothersome allergy which could affect my vocal cords. Then I decided to stay, won over by the place’s charm, with its peace and quiet in winter and summertime euphoria, and with its harmonious contrasts of nature, from the Apuan Alps in the background to the white marble quarries and up to the seaside. Here in Versilia, the atmosphere is pleasure-seeking and spiritual at the same time.
What places in Versilia are especially close to your heart?
There are many places, but I would like to mention one in particular, because it witnessed the first night I spent with the woman who would become the love of my life. About twenty years ago, in May, a few hours after meeting Veronica for the first time, we took a long night walk on the beach and then along the pier. I told her all about my love of this stretch of coast, describing the magic - the year-long magic - of this seaside town, where the sea’s salty breath expands into the gardens and tree-lined avenues, into the pinewoods.
What is your favorite Versilian dish and what restaurant makes it the way you like it best?
I believe that a significant part of Versilia’s fame and fortune stems from what Versilia feeds its visitors on: the quality and variety of Versilian restaurants are unrivalled. I think it is really hard to be disappointed with a restaurant here. And I hope you will excuse my bluntness when I say that the restaurant that best suits my taste is the one at my Beach Club, Alpemare, where Chef Mirko Caldino has achieved the perfect balance between simplicity, genuineness and elegance in his dishes. Versilia’s traditional cuisine is mostly fish-based, and many are the dishes I enjoy eating, starting with the classic spaghetti with arselle.
You are known for your passion for horses. Could you tell us why?
As a child, when I was about to turn eight, my grandfather Alcide promised to buy me a horse as gift for my birthday. Unfortunately, he died before being able to do so. My father, however, agreed to fulfil my grandfather’s promise and I was given my first horse, Stella, a Haflinger female. Horses express my idea of freedom and are the ideal companion to enjoy intense and authentic contact with nature. Horse-riding is not only my favorite sport, but also a very practical means of transport.
Your best horse ride ever in Tuscany?
I recently experienced something beautiful and quite ambitious, considering my age: I went on a pilgrimage along the Via Francigena road, from Piazza San Pietro in Rome to Lajatico, hundreds of kilometers entirely on horseback with my wife Veronica. It was a truly unforgettable experience.
The annual concert at the Theater of Silence is approaching. After fifteen years, what has this experience, which provides the audience with unforgettable emotions, given you?
This event, which was born almost by chance, has literally grown year by year. Every year, on the Theater of Silence’s stage, I have the feeling of welcoming guests at home, not only the performers, who are also friends of mine, but every single member of the audience: we celebrate all together the joy of sharing art, on a natural stage which has no equal. A great joy for the spirit and the senses. I remember that, when we started off, the plan was to transform the hills surrounding Lajatico into a stage for no longer than five years. But the event turned out to be so successful that we decided to keep going, also in order not to deprive the area of what has become, in the meantime, a precious resource in terms of tourism.
The ABF is an ongoing commitment and a driving force behind tangible projects in the fields of music, solidarity and training. How does this dream come true make you feel after ten years?
It makes me feel very proud. The ABF has grown very much over the past ten years, beyond expectation, while staying true to the principles and mission (‘Empowering People and Communities’) which were behind its creation. The Foundation is a big family that carries out, all over the world, projects aimed at offering the opportunity - mostly to young people- to express their talent. The Foundation has recently moved its operational premises in Florence to the ‘Complesso di San Firenze’, which has been granted to the Foundation for free, an extraordinary cultural heritage which we plan to revitalize as a ‘hub’ for young people, through a range of training projects, in order to promote and support the talent of the citizens of the future, build a community and encourage communication through educational activities, both physical and virtual, free of charge, all year long.
What are your artistic plans for the upcoming months?
My agenda in full, I have a very busy schedule of concerts and, Covid restrictions permitting, I have about ten live events coming up in the United States within 2021. As far as Italy is concerned, an upcoming event which I am eagerly awaiting is the above-mentioned Teatro del Silenzio concert. After a forced year-long break, after so many difficult months, I’m looking forward to celebrating Il mistero della Bellezza, the title of the concert taking place on July 22 and 24.