Iris Origo

The wonderful - though sometimes difficult - years at La Foce are vividly described by Iris, an Anglo-American biographer and historian of international fame, in her two autobiographical books, Images and Shadows and War in Val d'Orcia. Iris (1902-1988) was brought up between Florence, Ireland and America, until she married Antonio Origo and settled at La Foce.


A Chill in the Air 1939-1940, an Italian War Diary (2017)
Published by the Pushkin Press, London 2017. These previously unpublished diaris, written by Iris Origo between March 1939 and July 1940, revealed with clear perception the sense of what was looming ahead, drawn from excerpts of conversations overheard, futile gossip, newspaper artcicles and news filtering through from international broadcast stations, as Mussolini grew closer to Hitler and to war. 

Images and Shadows (London 1970; reissued by John Murray, London 1998 and David Godine, Boston 1999)
An autobiography, in which Iris Origo describes her childhood spent between Europe and America, and her subsequent move to La Foce, a large farm in Tuscany. There she shared with her husband Antonio the responsibility of bringing back prosperity to the barren land and impoverished people.

War in Val d'Orcia, An Italian War Diary 1943-1944 (London 1947; reissued by David Godine, Boston 1984)
A classic of the Second World War, this diary is an elegantly simple chronicle of daily life at La Foce, a Tuscan no-man's land bracketed by foreign invasion and civil war. "The Marchesa Origo's faithful record is one of those precious and rare accounts that give the truth of history with the art of a gifted writer, that bears witness nobly to ignoble times" (Helen Wolff)
The World of San Bernardino (Phaidon, New York 1962)
Iris Origo, brilliant biographer and scholarly social historian, has re-created the life and world of a singularly attractive saint. An aristocrat and a scholar, born in Siena in the late 14th century, he was also called the second founder of the Franciscan order. By his clarity, directness, and humour, he had the gift of appealing as much to the simple people as to the learned. From this picture the saint emerges, a man of his time and yet timeless in his deep humanity.

Leopardi, A Study in Solitude (London 1954; reissued by Helen Marx Books, New York 1999)
A sensitive and appealing portrait of the melancholy, semi-cloistered, hunchback Italian poet whose genius, pain, and frustrated hopes found their outlet in poetry admired for its brilliance, intesity, and seemingly effortless musicality. "Vivid and remarkably readable" (Peter Quennell)

The Last Attachment. The story of Byron and Teresa Guiccioli as told in their unpublished letters and other family papers (London 1949; reissued by Helen Marx Books, New York 2000)
Byron is seen here in an Italian setting and through contemporary Italian eyes, as he gets ever deeper into the labyrinth of Italian social and political life. This is above all a full account of Byron's intense love affair with the Contessa Guiccioli, as told by 160 of his letters to her, and some of her answers. There are also letters from Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lady Blessington, Lamartine and others, as well as excerpts from contemporary Italian diaries and chronicles and from the archives of the Italian and Austrian police.

The Merchant of Prato. Francesco di Marco Datini 1335-1410 (New York 1957; reissued by David Godine, Boston 1986)
In Barbara Tuchman's opinion, this is one of the great works of historical writing in the twentieth century. "Iris Origo's success in resurrecting not only a strong personality but also his times, his town, his marriage, his friends and associates, and his business dealings, makes a work of extraordinary interest with that quality to grip and take hold of a reader that makes a book everlasting". Datini was a fourteenth-century Florentine merchant-banker, and represents one of the great success stories of the Middle Ages.

A Need to Testify (London 1968; reissued by Helen Marx Books, New York 2000)
Essays: Biography: True and false; Lauro De Bosis: Icarus; Ruth Draper and her Company of Characters; Gaetano Salvemini: the man who would not conform; Ignazio Silone: A Study in Integrity
Italy under the dictatorship of Mussolini. This book presents the moving stories of three men who refused to be intimidated into silence, and of a woman, Ruth Draper, who was drawn into the anti-fascist fight through her love for one of them. Iris Origo's account is enriched by her own gift of empathy, which made her a matchless friend, and makes this book as fascinating as history.