How invigorating to be in Italy when the harvest is happening; when the grapes look like they are ready to burst and the olives are the most amazing shiny green color just begging to be ready for pressing! There is nothing I can think of that is as flavorful as the first press of olive oil. And having the experience of picking the grapes to make the wine somehow makes one’s relationship to wine that much more appetizing. There are so many reasons to visit Italy in this season of production.
The weather is usually quite mild. We had a couple of days with short thunderstorms but by late afternoon the clouds were gone and the sun was kissing us with it’s warmth. It is still warm enough for summer clothing but the shops are presenting sweaters, jackets and wool clothing. For some reason the Italians have “rules” about the seasons and dates by which all things must be worn. I saw many, many Italians with sweaters, jackets and scarves on days that I considered sweltering. Sandals must be put away for another year and all swimming pools must be shut down the minute they think summer is done. It’s an oddity I’ve noticed since I began visiting this lovely country.
One thing I did on this trip was to travel to the north of Italy, to the mountainous area above Lucca. Bagni di Lucca is a region which, though is in Tuscany, does not look like the pictures one associates with Tuscany. The mountains have hundreds of tiny villages tucked away which, after parking a car must still be reached by a steep climb on foot. The stone walkways lead you up through neighborhoods with as few as 35 residents. If lucky, a village has more than 100 residents and may be able to support a bar or small grocery.
My friend Heather lives in one such village, just 135 residents, and one evening just a few minutes before 7 pm when we were discussing what to have for dinner she jumped up and said ..”quick we need a few things at the market and they are about to close.” Two minutes later we were across the little piazza and she had the bar/grocery owner unlocking his shop up a narrow stairway above the bar. She requested pork chops which he got from the walk-in and a couple of other items. Then he locked up and went back to sitting in the piazza. And of course, we had a fabulous dinner, the pork was from a local farmer, the vegetables came from her garden.
Everyone has gardens in these little towns and villages. One lunch that we had in a neighboring village at a friend’s who runs an agritourismo, the tomatoes, basil, cucumber and pickled eggplant came fresh from Francesca’s garden. We had just come from a little farm 15 minutes away where we watched the farmer’s wife make ricotta from the morning’s milking. I will have a difficult time eating ricotta anywhere else after that delicious treat; it was beyond incredible! They also make mozzarella and gifted us with one for our lunch with Francesca. Indescribable, fresh cheese of that caliber!
So, my mouth is watering and my stomach is howling. I’m going to say arrivederce and write more in another post. There is so much more to tell…..