Luca Giannuzzi Savelli

Although I learned much from my interview with the mysterious face of Monteverdi, Luca’s ardent and kindhearted nature nonetheless reveals itself in our day-to-day interactions off and on site. His intelligent eyes are constantly engaged in every conversation of which he is a part, and he is notably well-versed in everything from conflicts in the Middle East to Soccer and from the enjoyment of the present to the lives of the past. Such well-roundedness is surprising due to Luca’s physical isolation in the estate on top of the hill. This estate, which misleadingly seems to be within a bubble in time and space, was acquired by Luca’s grandfather in 1912, who converted it from a shooting lodge into a tremendous 13,000-hectare farming estate. Before this phase, the estate was essentially the fiefdom of the Marquis of Paganico of the Patrizi family, and it continues to overlook and act as a social and economic centerpiece for that tiny town. Although this land has always been a present component in Luca’s life—He was born in Rome and spent his early childhood and nursery school days at Monteverdi—such a purely Tuscan setting, slow-paced compared to the punctuality of London, seems to stand in stark contrast with the majority of Luca’s upbringing in English institutions. The half-English, half-Italian man attended an English school in Rome and then left the land for boarding school and higher learning in London as well as work in New York, England, and elsewhere in Italy. During all of this time, however, the estate and the knowledge that one day he must return home to take over have always loomed as a responsibility over the horizon; yet, where one might imagine the inheritance of an isolated 1200 hectares a constricting fate for someone who has seen and lived in so much of the world, Luca instead easily adapted to this land and the vastly different life which he had always been tethered to. In fact, he returned to Tuscany numerous times during his life, almost monthly after his mother retired, and he has no regrets of moving here permanently. He strives to tie himself to this country in which he was born and to tie his children to this land as well.

At Monteverdi, mirroring the rest of Italy, Luca is surrounded by an antiquity that he must navigate and preserve while operating in the present, but he does not feel constrained by that fact. Just as he always returned to this soil when he lived elsewhere, he remains a Renaissance man while he lives at the estate. He travels, stays updated on current events, and works on the front lines with the IMPERO Project Team—sweating and discovering the relics of the past alongside us as friends and colleagues. Interested in so many directions in life, several dreams came across Luca’s path and passed before he came to study the Archaeology of Egypt and Funeral Archaeology at UCL in London—focuses of study which led him to uncover human remains in places such as Ethiopia—and before he founded the Monteverdi Field School and facilitated the IMPERO Project in 2017. He originally studied Languages and Literature at the University of Exeter and a Master’s in Commercial Real Estate in London and found himself working in real estate in New York City, London, and Italy for almost 10 years. Even as a child he was drawn toward many different potentialities—He pictured himself as a lawyer, a banker, and even as a game ranger and a veterinarian. These directions did not truly light the fire in Luca’s heart, however, and his old love for history brought him back to higher education to pursue archaeology. He first entertained this field as a commercial archaeologist to connect his studies back to real estate until he found his true passion as an excavator in his early thirties—a life plan that he never imagined he would follow.

This diversity of personality allows Luca to intimately connect with all of the IMPERO Team of the present day and to continuously surprise us with his talents and knowledge. He believes that we are fortunate at this field school to live such closely woven lives since this degree of intimacy is a privilege that Luca has not enjoyed at many other excavations. Those teams, normally groups of strangers, would only meet briefly after working on site and then return to their respective accommodations. Due to our proximity, although he only just met much of the IMPERO Team during this excavation season or in the previous year, this fascinating lover-of-life manages to be as warm with all of his new friends as he is with our project director Professor Sebastiani, whom Luca met during the Alberese excavations almost half a decade prior, and whom he cites as a vital component in the creation of the Monteverdi field school and our excavations.

“As an Italian,” the thirty-eight year old, known for his witty grin and powerful presence, is also a lover of the beauty which he sees in all things. His appreciation of aesthetics—beautiful people, monumental structures, cities, his home and this land—fuels his passion for archaeology. He is particularly fond of Imperial Roman structures and art as well as the military and political structures that encompass Rome in presence and influence. Despite this admiration for the grand, Luca is also captivated by uncovering the daily lives and societal structures of those long gone through basic finds such as slag and bronze nails as well as understanding how different communities developed into complex societies. Thus, he puts just as much heart into our investigations at Podere Cannicci and Castellaraccio as he does with traditional Egyptian excavations that emphasize the lives of the elite.

In these aesthetic terms, from the material analysis of the daily man in Republican Rome to the Pharaohs, the Mediterranean Basin is the focal point of Luca’s passions. In this sea-kissed navel of the world, Luca has seen thought-provoking wonders such as a Roman villa floor in Ostia Antica that depicted a beach scene made with colored marble of different origins and a World War II Bomb found in the strata just above it. Luca’s other favorite find, a coin depicting the Roman god Janus, captures the archaeologist’s constant balance between worlds, passions, and personalities. Just as Janus’ dual faces look both to the future and to the past, so too does Monteverdi gaze upon the same hills of its history while its caretakers like Luca turn the estate’s vision towards the future. The ardent soul hopes for increased excavation, local involvement, and growth within the IMPERO Project to uncover this area’s history, and he imagines the future connection of this vibrant archaeological atmosphere and the area’s stories to the community and to the land.

Text by: Elisabeth Woldeyohannes

Photo by: Riley James