We received notice last week that another a caccia (hunting) season was upon us in Tuscany (September to February). The wild boar and deer culls were to commence on the expansive lands of the ancient Arceno wine and olive estate.
The rolling hills and heavily forested countryside of Tuscany have resulted in centuries of hunting traditions which simply have become uno stile di vita (a way of life). The celebration of the wild boar hunts have been captured over the centuries by the great masters in oil paintings found in museums across Italy.
The magnificent yet ferocious wild boars can be seen running along the side of the roadways at night, mothers taking the lead with the piglets following behind, trying to keep pace. I have likened the experience to watching a scene from the movie Out of Africa.
There are many areas protected from hunting on the Arceno Estate, one being the Parco Romantico (romantic park) designed by the famous architect, Agostino Fantastici in around 1833.
The Parco Romantico is one of the wild boars favourite places to be and this is where they indulge in their amorous activities. The results maybe two litters a year with up to 12 piglets per litter, now that’s impressive procreation.
The cull on Arceno is well-organized and designed to maintain a healthy balance between a thriving species and a strong agricultural livelihood. Conservation is important to all Casalisti (property owners) and it is respected that these discussions can create divisiveness amongst family and friends.
The camouflaged men can be seen with the local hunting Ranger and accompanied by their seasoned hunting hounds. Off into the woods they go, there is silence, then the wild barking of the hounds in the distance and then the birds fly.
I recall driving along a secondary road outside Castelnuovo Berardenga and three cars had been stopped by a hunter dressed in green camouflage pants and a brown long-sleeved shirt. He raised his right hand high with authority, motioning for us to stop, his rifle dangled over his left shoulder.
I commented to my husband, “He does not look like the local Carabinieri (police)”, given they are usually attired head to toe in Georgio Armani designed uniforms.
We were confused as to why the traffic was stopped, when suddenly a hound appeared. He had obviously picked up a scent which required him to cross the road, his master was keeping us at bay. We had never encountered this situation before, a “hound traffic stop”.
With an air of certainty the canine crossed the road, his head hanging low, sniffing as he went, his lean short-haired brown coat glistening in the sun. Then, he was off like a dart, with his master and fellow hunters in hot pursuit.
And we were off to do our cacciatore e raccolta (hunting and gathering) at the local market, how life styles have changed.
Upon returning to the “hound traffic stop” location, we observed the hunters were now oblivious to the local traffic as they had set up two folding tables by the side of the road. The tables were pulled closely together and covered by a red checkered tablecloth. A decanted bottle of wine stood in the center of the table surrounded by half empty glass tumblers.
They were obviously enjoying their well stuffed Panini as they laughed and nodded in conversation while sitting under the shade throwing trees.
“Amici e vini sono meglio vecchi”. (Old wine and friends improve with age). – Sicilian Proverb
Hunting is important to the local Tuscan community as they continue to hunt to feed their families, as well to preserve the local economy which is based on the ancient wine vines and olive groves. It was estimated that in 2016 wild boars had consumed enough grapes around Gaioli in Chianti to have produced 130,000 bottles of Chianti wine. One cannot fault the wild boar for an impressive palate that includes Sangiovese grapes.
The following picture of a road sign may have been the result of too much Tuscan wine before hunting, I trust in this case the wild boar got away.
Lillie, B. (November 6, 2014) Italy’s Hunting Season. Italy Magazine Retrieved from: http://www.italymagazine.com/news/italys-hunting-season
Squires, N. (January 18, 2016) Tuscan Wine Makers Back Cull. Telegraph News (Web Site) Retrieved from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/12105887/Tuscan-wine-makers-back-cull-of-250000-wild-boar-and-deer.html