The Valley of Il Porto 1958 - 2002
Il Porto, is my kingdom by the sea. It rebirthed my spirit...
a waking-up again.
In an effort to escape an addiction that was slowly killing her, Vali left Paris for the last time. After months of wandering, Vali and Rudi literally stumbled into the wild green valley of 'Il Porto' in Positano, Southern Italy. Protected by 1,000-foot cliffs, the almost impenetrable valley opened to the sea and became Vali's main residence and greatest inspiration. In the early summer of 1971, Italian artist Gianni Menichetti began living with Vali and together took care of the large animal family that developed in the valley. Ironically, these same animals had filled Vali's dreams and work for years - the owl, raven, and the fox.
Over the years more animals came to the retreat until Vali had built up a menagerie numbering over one hundred. After years of battling with local police and government bureaucracy Vali finally obtained permission to turn the valley into a wildlife sanctuary under the protection of the World Wildlife Fund and dedicated all of her money, time and energy into it's preservation.
Donkey, pigs, dogs, cats, goats - all of the animals were Vali's children but the most precious was her favourite daughter, Foxy. As a young vixen Foxy was found starving after her mother had been shot. Vali cared for the young fox and in doing so created an amazing bond with this wild, beautiful creature and Foxy's name was tattooed on Vali's hands in loving memory of their 14 years together.
Working under my gaslight at night when all the animals are asleep excepting Foxy and the mice - my inspiration spinning from Irish Monks to Vikings and the Never Never Land - the small fine pen nib placed on a goose feather for lightness in my hand touching the soft white paper... the silence of the great valley... my nights - a harpooned whale turns toward the sun.
During the 60's, after years of hibernation from the outside world, the legend of Vali and her artwork began to seep into the consciousness of the new psychedelic generation. In 1965 the American film-maker Sheldon Rochlin produced a documentary on Vali called 'The Witch of Positano' and the film became a cult classic in America and was instrumental in attracting some notable visitors to Positano:
Marianne Faithful turned up one day with her boyfriend to see some of my work. I thought, who is this scrawny little guy, so I said to him, what is it you do Micky? How would I know who the bloody hell Mick Jagger was? - I wasn't interested in Mick Jagger, I was always into Marianne. She was a real fighter.
British singer, Donovan, intrigued by Vali's artwork also made the trek to Positano. He was so captivated by it's creator that he flew her to London to have her dance on stage at the Royal Albert Hall to his song, 'Season of the Witch'. Perhaps the deepest impression was made on the American playwright Tennessee Williams who Vali refers to as 'the saddest, most sentimental man I have ever known.' After spending time with Vali, Williams was so taken with her originality and lust for life that he based the free-spirited character Carol, in his play 'Orpheus Descending', directly on her.
Il Porto became a Wildlife Oasis in 1988. Gianni Menichetti lives there as the valley’s 'ambassador' dealing with government officials and still tending to the menagerie of animals. Vali left the valley for the last time in June 2002.