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Italian Idyll

Oberto Gili and Joy Sohn’s Piedmont home is a sensual delight every month of the year.

Mitchell Owens

Oberto Gili, celebrated photographer of houses and gardens, had always dreamed of living off the land. Of cultivating vegetables he would lovingly harvest, cook, and eat. Of tending grapevines whose plump fruit he would transform into wine (“not château quality,” he says, “but drinkable”). Of raising chickens for eggs and cows for milk and cheese. Not just any farm would do, though. The only location Gili ever considered when it came time for him to pick up a spade was the commune of Bra, near Turin, in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy—which is, neatly enough for the photographer’s farm-to-table reverie, where activist Carlo Petrini pioneered the Slow Food movement in the 1980's.

Born and raised in Turin, Gili spent childhood summers at his grandfather’s big farm in Bra, where he tagged along with the hired hands for much of each day, he says, “coming home for lunch and then running back to them.” His extended family still calls that countryside home, and the photographer and his companion, Joy Sohn—herself a gifted photographic chronicler of domestic settings—now live there, too, on about six acres that abut family members’ properties. “It’s better than having other kinds of neighbors,” says Gili, whose latest book, produced with writer Marella Caracciolo Chia, is Domus: A Journey into Italy’s Most Creative Interiors (Rizzoli). “We drop in on each other if we want to, because there’s no reason to call and ask,” Gili continues. “And because we know each other so well, we have fewer fights.”

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