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the democracy of beauty

June 2021- Number 21
the democracy of beauty

Face to face with Ilaria Borletti Buitoni, unstoppable, far-seeing, today more than ever convinced that man must stand at the center of an unbreakable circle composed of nature, health, culture, and landscape. From the battle for the Apuans to the weTree project

Interview by Silvana Rizzi - Photography Pier Marco Tacca/GettyImages

“Beauty is not an elite value but a collective heritage,” affirms Ilaria Borletti Buitoni. All her life committed to environmental protection, now vice-president of FAI and president of the infant weTree project, from 2013 to 2018 Undersecretary at the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, her front-line fight to save the Apuan Alps has won a ban on new quarries above 1,200 meters a.s.l.

Every year, when she returns here, she hikes the Monte Altissimo mountain trails. From up there, the view is spectacular. “The park trails,” she says, “need lots of benches to stop to meditate on such splendor, and signs telling the history of Versilia.” And she adds, “With its sea and its mountains, an integrated system for tourism would put Versilia right at the top.”

For her, returning to Forte is something of a madeleine moment, after Marcel Proust. “I come back to my childhood, the shaded lanes, the beach, mothers’ shouted warnings to their children on bikes. Every time, I find myself thinking that Forte dei Marmi is still a rare example of real balance between man and nature.” An example? “During the day Forte enjoys a sea breeze, in the evening a land breeze”: air conditioning courtesy of Mother Nature!

From the sea, an uninterrupted strip of green rises toward the Apuans. It is a landscape unique in the world and, as Ilaria points out, an essential facet of life in Versilia. Monte Altissimo, Michelangelo, Palazzo Mediceo in Seravezza, the pievi here and there on the hillsides, the rustic villages of the quarrymen. The reproductions of Carrà’s paintings on the footbridges of Forte. Everything, here, draws out the territory’s ever-present past of life and art.

Unstoppable and far-seeing, and more than ever a staunch supporter of the idea that man stands at the center of an unbreakable circle, rounded by nature, health, culture, and landscape, Ilaria – with scientists Ilaria Capua and Maria Ludovica Gullino – has now launched and heads weTree. A project born to promote and maintain public green areas, named for women who have excelled in this sector, in Italy’s cities. “Four mayors have already joined the movement,” she tells us. “In Milan, a wood is growing on the Bicocca campus; in Palermo, the Botanical Gardens slated for expansion; in Turin, green is returning to the historic center; in Perugia, the church of Sant’Angelo will soon have its cypress grove back.” One challenge, many projects – to bring man into balance with his world and keep him there. Full info at


...Every time, I find myself thinking that Forte dei Marmi is still a rare example of real balance between man and nature...