“True happiness is… to enjoy the present without anxious dependence on the future.”- Seneca
It was as though energy from the Tuscan land magnetically pulled me out of bed this morning. I just needed an extra bit of help to get me moving.
As I pulled open the chestnut shutters in the upper floor bedrooms, I could see it would be an overcast day. The dampness from last night’s rainfall still clinging to the grass in the yard, small pools of water sat in the tufa lined walkway. The three hundred year old olive tree which sits contentedly by the chestnut gate seemed to be mocking me, “Oh hurry up young one, the day is half over, what are you waiting for?”
The weather was expected to be cool and it was a perfect day for a road trip.
As the vehicle moved quietly along the white roads of the Arceno estate I looked in the side view mirror, there was no dust trailing behind us today. The rain had given the road and land some well deserved refreshment, even the old stone walls aligning the road appeared to have been scrubbed clean this morning.
As the vehicle rounded the bend, I could see the old abandoned mill standing in solitude. There was just enough sunlight cast on the old stone exterior to give the mill a bit of a shine, enough to say, “notice me”. I will relish the day when the old mill is refurbished.
As we passed through the keyhole entrance of the Arceno Estate I quickly looked over my shoulder in the hope of preserving today’s scenery to memory, “Just simply beautiful”.
The Arceno estate and surrounding area is seeped in Etruscan history with the Arceno name derived from the Etruscan word Archè, meaning “point of origin” (http://www.tenutadiarceno.com/en/our-heritage). An acknowledgement of the local meeting point between two Italian rivers; the Ombrone and the Ambra.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus
Our first stop today is Castelnuovo Berardenga, a small citta (city) near the Arceno estate. It is an easy eight minute drive requiring you to just sit and enjoy a peaceful journey through the bucolic rolling vineyards and olive groves surrounding Arceno.
Castelnuovo Berardenga is affectionately known as “CB” by expats, primarily due to the length and the tongue twisting nature of saying Castelnuovo Berardenga repeatedly. The name Berardenga came from “…. the Count Berardo, of Frank origins who lived, in what later, was the site of the citta in the second half of the 10th century” (https://www.chianti.com/castelnuovo-berardenga).
Castelnuovo Berardenga itself was built-in 1366 by the city of Siena due to its strategic position (meeting point of the Ombrone and Ambra rivers) in the ongoing war with Florence. In 1555 Siena was defeated by the Medici’s Grand Duchy of Florence and the high tower in Piazza Petrilli (the original defence system) was turned into the town’s clock tower in 1755.
My favourite view of Castelnuovo Berardenga is from across the lands of the Felsina Winery, where the glory of the citta is framed by the winery’s cypress alley. The Roman’s used some of the existing Felsina lands as a meeting place but, the Etruscans were there first (https://www.felsina.it/en/felsina-cultura_del_territorio/).
Castelnuovo Berardenga is a designated Città Slow (City of good living) due to its decidedly tranquil and peaceful way of life (http://www.cittadelvino.it/). This includes a dedication to food quality as well as, all aspects of an Italian lifestyle. The citta has a strong and vibrant cultural heartbeat that is enjoyed by those of us fortunate to live nearby or visit. The atmosphere is purely and authentically Tuscan.
The soft honey hued stone buildings with green or brown shutters glow in the sunlight. And in the spring, the buildings become alive with flowering vines and potted plants which sit daintily on the window ledges or on either side of doorways until well into the end of fall.
I look forward to sitting under the wisteria laden pergola in Piazza Guglielmo Marconi while enjoying lunch at the popular Enoteca Bengodi. It is difficult not to feel special when wrapped in a shawl made of flowers.
The treed promenade leading to the historical centre provides some welcome relief from the Tuscan sun, but today on an overcast day it just feeds me with its beauty.
The benches which dot Via del Chianti and the promenade are not full today, just a few older gentleman sitting with hats pulled tightly around their ears and brown suede jackets zipped up to their chins, ensuring the cool air does not grace their throats. I wonder what they are talking about?
The beautiful stone statue emblazoned with Castelnuovo Berardenga stands guard across from the mysterious Villa Chigi Saracini, where three roads intersect at one of the entrances to Castelnuovo Berardenga.
The Grand Villa is surrounded by impressive gardens that seem to flow beneath the soaring aqueduct archways, giving the land a decidedly whimsical feel. We have yet to visit the grounds of the 19th century Villa which is open only for special town events.
Castelnuovo Berardenga is also known as a Citta del Vino (City of Wine), a denomination that is bestowed on prominent Chianti cities which preserves the techniques and security of wine production (http://www.cittadelvino.it/). Castelnuovo Berardenga is quite literally dipped in wine territory as it is awash in a sea of the regions best wine producers.
The annual wine event, Castelovino is held in Castelnuovo Berardenga each June. It is an opportunity to sample the best wines of the area and is an event not to be missed. (https://www.facebook.com/Castelnovino-2018-893926087296975/) We will be in Tuscany this year to attend Castelovino for the first time and will happily wade through what the event has to offer.
The wines in combination with the authentic Tuscan food prepared in Castelnuovo Berardegna and by the area’s local Taverna’s, Enoteca’s, Osteria’s and Ristorante (San Gusme, Buccine, Villa A Sesta) makes it difficult not to find some form of gastronomical heaven. I always have (see wine/food).
The Piazza Guglielmo Marconi was not busy this morning as we walked past the fountain, sitting dry until the spring. I waved to Marcello, who we met during prior trips to the area, and nodded “Buongiorno” to Marco heading to his work at the local bank.
It was a typical morning with the population darting in and out of Bar Centrale grabbing an espresso and dolce to provide their much-needed jolt of energy.
We quickly grabbed a table with a view of the door and caffè counter, I wanted to watch the morning activities while enjoying the Siena regional paper. The star of the morning was a friendly, aging golden labrador retriever who was languishing happily on the floor, his thick tail moving slowly back and forth as he acknowledged each human he encountered. The cane (dog) was gently tucked by his owner’s feet under the cafe table and looked more comfortable than I was sitting upright in my chair.
The cane, was receiving as many greetings as his human companions, “Bel cane, gentile” (beautiful dog, gentle) after which came a gentle rub on the top of his head.
As I took another bite of my morning pastry with chocolate filling I thought, life doesn’t taste or get any better than this, as the heavy zucchero (sugar) topping hit my palate.
My husband was retrieving the cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) which he had ordered and I could see a perplexed look crossing his face. As well, from the gentleman standing next to him at the counter. The owner’s wife who usually made the drinks was apparently away this morning and her marito affascinante (charming husband) was preparing David’s order.
As David sat the cup of cioccolata calda on the table, the spoon literally was standing vertically in his cioccolata calda. “Perhaps he mixed it incorrectly”? David said. “I think so”, I responded with a laugh.
As my husband quickly “dug” into this pudding-like concoction apparently with no thought of determining if indeed the mixture was incorrect. With a look of unadulterated gastronomical delight began creeping across his face, he said, “Do you think he can make this again”?
Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them. – Leo Tolstoy
GoodReads (2001-2018). Tolstoy (Web Site). Retrieved from: https:/www.goodreads.com/quotes/24152-happiness-does-not-depend-on-outward-things-but-on-the
Brainyquotes (2001-2018) Heraclitus (Web Site). Retrieved from: https//www.brainyquote.com/quotes/heraclitus_107157
Pinterest (2018) Seneca (Web Site). Retrieved from: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/356558495474087720/