I am often asked when is the best time to visit Tuscany?
My answer is always the same:
“There is never a bad time to visit Tuscany, the landscape is always transforming itself with various colours, yet it retains its’ beauty throughout the seasons; Primavera (Spring), Estate (Summer), Atunno autunno (Fall) and Inverno (Winter). However, if it were not for the Tuscan people, the land would keep its glory but Tuscany itself, would have no soul.”
We arrived just before Easter Friday, during Holy week. A deeply religious time in Tuscany, filled with traditional festivals and Christian reenactments throughout this predominantly Catholic land.
During Primavera (Spring) the Tuscan land awakens from its brief winter nap and welcomes you with a dazzling display of colours. The velvet textured tapestries in springtime are vibrant greens and truly difficult to describe: you must simply, experience it.
The fields have begun signalling the long-awaited arrival of Ortodi Primavera (spring market garden); the warming earth brings forth her awakening children with a gentle whisper, “go now”.
Tuscans’ anxiously anticipate the fattened broad beans (buccelli), with their fury pods; and the various sized (carciofi) artichokes grown in local gardens and fields. The carciofi are thought to have been cultivated by the Etruscans from the wild thistle.
The sweet fresh garlic, the beloved green and (bianco) white artichokes, wild fennel (finocchio selvatico) growing in the fields, spring onions (cipolinne) and sweet peas (piselli) in their pods, will be feted on local menus’. Garnishing home – made pasta’s, as side dishes, in salads……
Easter Monday there will be the sowing of legumes and vegetables as the moon begins to wane (luna calante).
Tuscany remains a part of the world where the phases of the moon continue to influence horticulture, as shown by a hand – drawing Sergio had given to my husband of the planting of garlic, including the phases of the moon.
Sergio whom we describe as: “the best Contidini (farmer) in Ambra ” grows his own grapes on his beautiful property in Buccine, a glorious property with 360 degree views of the Ambra Valley.
Although, Sergio could not tell us the age of his thickened vines, ” antico” (ancient) he said, with a quick shrug of his shoulders. His grapes are planted in the traditional Contidini (farmers) way. Grape vines planted intermittently in the same row as the olive trees, yielding the best results.
The outcome is an aromatic, deeply coloured Chianti Vino Rosso (Red Wine), whose now familiar medium bodied, satisfying tannin rich flavor with its rustic warmth on the tongue, has become part of lives in Tuscany.
We have the same first cena (dinner); a bottle of Sergio Della Scalla Gambini’s home-made Bacco in Valdamabra, made from the varied grapes blended to soften the predominantly Sangiovese grape; whose name comes from sanguis Jovis (the blood of Juniper).
To take wine into your mouth is to savor a droplet of the river of human history. – Clifton Fadiman
As always, we followed our post air flight routine: a quick stop along the highway for an espresso luongo, Cafe Americano con latte cauldo (coffee with hot milk) and due pasti al ciocolatto (two pastries with chocolate filling) to sustain and keep us awake during the three-hour car trip to the Casale (farmhouse) from Roma. Then, a stop in Sinalunga to pick up “only a few essential groceries” for our evening meal at the Casale. The bountiful frutta (fruit) and (verdura) vegetable marcato (market) in Castelnuovo Berardegna held Thursday (Giovedì) is a weekly pilgrimage, not to be missed.
Our first meal compliments the Bacco in Valdamabra; sliced meats (Proscuitto, Cinta, Salumi con pepe), fresca (fresh) Pecorino ewe milk cheese (hopefully one with truffle), saltless white bread (dipped in the EVOO from the Montecchio olive grove) and Paneforte Margherita dolce (sweet) with a dusting of icing sugar; always tastes like it should.
As the car took a slow right turn and entered through the Arceno keyhole, my stomach began to flutter.
The white road leading from the keyhole to the Casale, had thrown white dust on the ancient stone wall that buttressed the terraced olive grove to my left, blood-red poppies sprung forth with abandon from the smallest of stone crevices.
With the tidy rows of Sangiovese vines to my right, the linen and golden coloured stone Casales (farmhouses) could be seen rising and falling on the rolling Tuscan hills in the distance.
As I turn down the car window, the heavy smell of burning olive wood was in the air; with no sound, except for the chirping of the birds and the sweet sounds of the swallows twirling and dancing overhead.
True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings.”―
As I stood surveying the yard, I could see that Sergio had prepared for our visit: the olive trees had been heavily pruned. The pale purple irises at the worn chestnut gate were with buds and the scent of rosemary lingered from the blue blossoms that dusted the rosemary plants in the cucina garden. The climbing roses next to the garden shed were set to bloom and the once struggling jasmine vine by the parcaggio was doing well. The only thing a miss was a few terra cotta tiles over turned by the owls looking for a light “snack” of wall lizards who sought refuge.
We would learn from Sergio, the olive branches nesled in the lock of our garden shed and also tied to the old water well, had been blessed in the chiesa (church) Sergio attends in Montebenichi.
“L’olivo benedetto“, a blessed branch from an olive tree.
It feels wonderful to be here again.