La Tornaia is an old farm. How old we do not know, but the oldest houses on the farm is at least four hundred years old. Originally, this was one of the largest farms in the area. After most of the farm was sold off in the years after World War II, farming was discontinued at the end of the 1960s. On the 54 remaining acres of the farm, olives, grapes, and, vegetables and fruit have been cultivated. They also kept sheep, goats and cattle. On the farm there is a forest of chestnut-- and walnut trees, There are only a few trees left of the large olive grove after most of the area's olive trees were destroyed by frost in the mid-80's.
The farm has been in Norwegian possession since 1973 when Arne Flottorp bought the property. Some of the land was initially rented out, while the rest was used as a holiday resort. Today the property has been developed and adapted to this purpose. In the 70's there were originally a barn and stables ("The Tornaia Piccola"), now converted into a a modern home in keeping with the old style. The original house and the surroundings ("The Tornaia Grande"). in 2002-3 had a comprehensive renovation and modernization in 2002-3- both indoor and outdoors. When Arne Flottorp the died 2003 his daughters - Signe and Vigdis Flottorp - ran the property together until Signe with her family aquired the property in the autumn 2012. The history of La Tornaia you can read about in the story told by the last farmer's wife on the farm, - Elvira Burroni and transcribed by Arne Flottorp sometime in the 80s:
“One of the stories that are told in the valley is that Michelangelo's breastfeeding nurse came from La Tornaia (Michelangelo was born in the village of Caprese Michelangelo approximately 3 mil from La Tornaia).
Most of the Italian land was owned by landlords who often lived in larger cities nearby. They often had several properties in the countryside called 'casa colonica'. Sometimes the church or the nobility were owners. The farmer and his family ran the farm and could keep half of what they are bred and cultivated, while the rest went to the landowner. The system was called 'mezzadria' meaning half. During harvest, the owners were present, of course, to make sure the farmer did not hide parts of the harvest. If the landowner was dissatisfied, the farmer's family lacked legal protection and could be fired almost without notice.
The family Burroni that lived on La Tornaia, had operated the farm for four hundred years. The last one running the farm was Burroni Elvira and her husband with their eight children, and the husband's brother and wife. If needed, she hired as many as 12 casual labourers, - 'braccianti' (=arms). They received diet the days they worked on the farm. The narrow terraces coculd be partially plowed by two strong cows, the rest had to be done by hand with 'la zappa' - pickaxe.
La Tornaia was once one of the largest farms in the area and stretched from the plain by the river ('Rassina') In the bottom of the valley and almost up to the village. The larger and easily cultivated fields were sold off by the daughter of the last squire in 1955 and 1968. Her parents were dead by this time. She had a brother who was killed as a pilot during the war. The family donated the land for the soccer field to the village as a memory of their son. The daughter was the beauty of the valley, and had the nick name 'The beauty of Chitignano'. It was said that she had countless lovers. She did never marry, but got a son by a German pilot.
There were 54 acres left when the farm was purchased in 1973, with many narrow and heavyly run terraces. No one else would buy land costing so much to cultivate, both economically and physically. Fortunately, there was among the 54 acres ca 10 acres of chestnut trees that there give little trouble and a lot of pleasure. There are some Marronier, the best type of chestnuts, and they are a delicacy roasted or boiled. They are served with red wine and they mature in early October. A portion of wild chestnuts “selvatici” was used as the rabbit and pig forage. Many of the chestnuts were cleansed by kids, ground for flour, and used us chesnutpolenta. You could also bake cakes with the chestnut flour and for use in place of pasta. Elvira harvested approximately 900 kg chestnuts annually.
La Tornaia was a valuable farm, probably because a small steam across the fields ensured regular water supply during dry periods. Six tons of grapes were harvested annually and produced 75 litres vin santo. On the large fields not cultivated any more, there used to be vines. Between these Elvira 25 grew quintali (1,5 tonnes) onions. On the steep ground below the road they had rotational cultivation. One year one ton of cucumber, and the next year one ton melons or corn and grain, depending on the needs of people and animals.
The nice flat ground next to The Chestut House (where the swimming pool is today) ble called 'ortho' – the kitchen garden. Before the war Elvira produced vegetables for the population of the Chitignano's 1100 people. She cultivated potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, beans of all kinds, squash ('melanzane'), cucumber ('cetrioli') and more. Furthermore, she had many olive trees. There were 70 left when the farm was purchased, most of these died in a freezing winter with 20-25 degrees Centigrades below zero for more than two weeks in the middle of the 80ies. Tuscany lost 16 of the 21 millions olive trees that were registered. Still there exists trees with olives, figs, kaki fruit, pears, kiwi and peaches on the farm.
The harvester place 'aia' was the courtyard. Grain warehouse 'granaglio', was where the large bedroom on Tornaia Piccola is today. The sheepshed was below this and the 12 sheep gave pecorino cheese and ample supply of wool. In the small room next to the sheep sheed there was a small goat barn with room for four goats and a mule. Abovet he goat barn Elvira kept fruit. She had also shelves with leaves from two sycamore trees for their silkworms, thus she produced silk as well. The last mulberry is tree still standing outside The Stable. The cows were kept both in The Stable and in the cellar room below the kitchen in Tornaia Grande (The Log Storage), partly in The Stable beside the sheep barn.
The village's best mineral water spring is located just below La Tornaia, where the road crosses the bridge towards Rosina. It's called 'Aqua forte' and previously this well was on the property of La Tornaia. You can bring an emty bottle and fill it yourself. You ought to use lemon juice due to high tastes of iron and sulfur. It's certainly worth trying, and it is supposed to be good for your health. The water contains more lithium than is found in any other known mineral resource.”