Thursday, October 16, 2008


I don’t know what I expected, but the first part of this trip has left me somewhat in awe of this country and its people.

From Tuscany to Rome the countryside is rural, blanketed with cultivated fields of corn, alfalfa, and even tobacco. But they are all a distant second to the grapes and olives. These two can be seen covering the hills and valleys in somewhat small but repetitive fields and groves. Away from the larger cities it seems that every square foot of land is used to grow grape vines or olive trees.

Most impressive is the way the people live; large and small farm houses are scattered throughout the countryside, but the majority of the homes are clustered into small villages and towns, with none of our urban sprawl. And these towns are the jewels of Tuscany, each with their winding, narrow streets, shops, markets, and restaurants. They all have their piazza, identified with the church, marking the center of the village. Between the towns in Tuscany the roads twist and turn along the hills and mountains, dotted by inconspicuous unpaved roads leading to wineries and estates.

Driving is a challenge, with small cars, trucks, and the ever present motor cycles speeding in and out of the never ending curves. Maps and road signs are inaccurate or indecipherable, to the point making you scream out in frustration.

The only word that describes the Tuscan landscape is beautiful, and that is far to inadequate.
Unlike the states, the countryside is not decimated with billboards and other gruesome signage, and all of the farms, from the obvious wealthy estates to the smaller ones, share the same architectural style and color, creating a landscape that is harmonious in color and composition. Yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and greens of varying temperature create landscapes that remain constant, even as they change.


Exploring Fonterutoli I saw signs of my grandfather and father in the small details around the farm and village, especially in the gardens. There were the unpretentious gates and fences made from simple posts with nails and wire, as well as the rows of tomato plants and beans supported by smaller posts cut from the trees. And what a delight to see the walnut and persimmon trees scattered about the garden, with an occasional apple and pear tree, powerful reminders of the small farm that was my home. Everything was created for utility.

But nothing took me back to our farm like the wine cellar. Stepping into that dusky cellar with the dirt floor and walls of damp stones and greeted by the aroma of the wine in the lines of oak barrels was like stepping into our cellar in our old house where there were always 5 or 6 barrels of wine my father and grandfather made every year. My friends and I would sneak a drink from the wooden barrel tap using a mason jar lid. Oh how I would love to go back in time and walk through the vineyard on our farm, picking the large Catawba grapes and squeezing the pulp from the skin directly in my mouth. It was not Tuscany, but it was just as heavenly.


Asta said...

I'm a friend of Patience's and the whippets, and came to read about your trip..We've always loved Italy and found the same sense of awe for the way they live and the landscape, and the attention to every detail of life lived fully.
I'm so glad you had a chance to go

Snowball said...

Hi Bill, Patience send me over to say hi. I love the pictures on your blog. They are all very beautiful.