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Siena Brown

■ 1 October 2012 by James Martin

I have always been a fan of earth colors, burnt and raw. Yes, ever since I held a waxy cylinder labeled “burnt Sienna” I’ve been enamored with the solemn tones of scorched earth.

In fact, the first tub of color to be added to the white wall paint I used in my Tuscan abode was labeled “terra di Siena”. Yes, the earth of Siena was turned by the English into all the “Sienna” colors. And yes, you mix your own paint in Italy.

The funny thing is that I always think of Siena as a “brown” place. Earthy, less vibrant than other parts of Tuscany, but more secretive, darkly seductive, more difficult to know. You know Siena has a secret, and it’s not going to give it up easily.

There’s a vibrant Siena too, tinged with sadness: Burnt Sienna. My fave. It’s the iron in the earth, the strength of it. “Raw sienna heated to remove the water from the clay and give it a warm reddish-brown colour,” Wikipedia says.

We recently toured Siena province. Here’s the evidence for the color at a magical place called Montestigliano.

montestigliano office and view

The interesting thing about this color is that it makes all sorts of whoopee when you add colder colors to it. Like blue. This is Massimo, who treated journalists to a fab tasting of his and three other olive oils.

montestigliano farmer massimo

And the famous wine of Siena province? Brunello, the “little brown one”.

Color is a major component of human occupation, especially in the band that starts in Provence and continues through Liguria and Tuscany. It’s no wonder that artists headed to just these places.

So you notice the color of places you visit? Have a debate over on our facebook page.

Siena Brown originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com Oct 01, 2012, © James Martin.

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