The Chiusdino Mill
by Emmanuel Grossi
Set designer Gianni Quaranta was not new in advertising production: in the 1980s, he worked on some commercials, first among which a memorable one directed by Franco Zeffirelli for Annabella furs, produced by the Milan BRW company. This made use of the sets (also authored by the director himself) and the costumes (by Piero Tosi) of La Traviata, winner of numerous awards.
BRW (which was in constant rivalry with Film Master) was a great protagonist of the best advertising era (in the period after the Carosello one) and it was an absolute leader for elegance, brightness and pomp. It entrusted Quaranta with the search for a mill in which to set the stories of the new campaign authored by Silvano Guidone for the Testa agency. This aired starting in Autumn of 1990.
After a long search, the ideal place was finally found: the “Mulino delle Pile”, a large farmhouse immersed in the green hills of Siena, near the small burg of Chiusdino.
This location allowed for somewhat of a freedom in film narrative: the building was very suitable for panoramic filming from above, it was structured with two floors and a small tower, with an alternating of solid and empty spaces, and had several windows looking over a large courtyard. It was there that all the commercials of the lovely family coming from the city were filmed, using the inner rooms as well, adapting them to the needs of filming.
Though, a few essential elements were missing, starting from the exterior finishing, that was originally in stone. Quaranta took care of this aspect, making the building appear more glamorous and fairy-tale like by covering the perimeter walls and giving them the necessary white coloring. Then, to reflect the famous logo in all details, he deviated the course of a small river nearby so that this would lap the mill, moving the water wheel that was specially added to the façade.
Destiny willed that the place was already by itself significant for cinema history. The Abbey of San Galgano, famous for the “sword in the stone” and for having been roofless for centuries and “covered” only by the sky, is just at a few miles of distance. However, for film lovers, this is most of all the mystical location of the final scene of the movie Nostalghia by Andrej Tarkovskij, filmed entirely in Italy and in very evocative places, like the thermal basin of nearby Bagno Vignoni and the submerged church of Saint Vittorino near Cittaducale, in the Rieti area.
Instead, advertising set a place in history for the Mulino delle Pile, that for years became a touristic place, so much to drive Barilla to organize guided tours, prize journeys, and even a “Sorpresina” (small surprise gadget) Day. Its fame still stands, even though the place returned to its original aspect and has not been the home of the iconic and proverbial “Mulino Bianco family” anymore from more than a quarter of a century.