It’s no secret that we’ve loved Italy. I’m continually amazed that people live here – in these ancient beautiful villages, with this art, this food. But it’s the people that have made it wonderful and knowing that in and of itself adds to the specialness of this place. Jon talked about this in his last post on Umbria, but I wanted to continue in that same vein a bit. It’s been about 5 weeks since we arrived, and we’ll be here until the end of October. 2 months in this dreamscape. 2 months living a typical Umbrian life, going to work in the morning, eating a hearty home-cooked lunch, enjoying the afternoon and then settling into a lovely meal in the evening. The weather has been incredible, with sun and pool time nearly every day while at the Casale. The days of rain invited impressive thunder and lightening storms, which added to the vibrant green colors in this green heart of Umbria in which we find ourselves.
There’s been a festival in some part of Umbria every day we’ve been here. Whether it’s music, art, wine, food, seasonal products and soon to be chocolate – there’s always something to celebrate it seems. Apparently during the summer it’s even more jovial, as each hamlet and village or collection of ancient homes has its own sagre or weeklong celebration of something central to that village.
All these towns are so charming and beautiful in their own unique way. Sure I guess if you aren’t into medieval architecture, don’t care about Renaissance art or culture, and aren’t into food or wine, Italy probably isn’t going to be interesting. But even that aside, the people have blown us away. They are so friendly. We were joking (perhaps rather insensitively) that Italians are kind and generous like Malians, they just have infrastructure (mostly) and generally a higher stander of living. We are continually amazed by our interactions with Italians. In the grocery stores and markets, or food stands, or at these tasting festivals we’ve been frequenting, there is no sense of impatience or annoyance that we don’t speak the language or don’t know what to ask for. Quite the opposite, there’s a joy and pride in sharing their products, their creations, and always a smile to accompany that sharing.
Take the Corciano Wine Festival (Corciano Castello di Vino) that we visited this weekend? 4€ bought us tastings to 13 wineries set up in the little medieval shop areas through this incredible hill town. Consider that each winery brings 2-5 wines to taste. Italians are so excited to share their wines that the pours aren’t these whimpy little ½ ounce pours you get in the States – we’re talking a ½ glass of wine – per taste. That plus the food stalls – fresh roasted chestnuts, unbelievable pecorino cheese, meats and so on – makes for a happy happy town (and blond American who finds herself there).
Earlier in the day we went to Corciano's neighbor, the town of Deruta, famous for Umbria handmade ceramics. It helps that Claudia (our host) is a ceramicist herself, and we were able to go to her favorite workshop, meet the owner and get an indepth tour of the molding, firing, glazing and painting of these incredible works of art. It didn't matter that no one bought anything (although we might go back for a momento) they were so happy to share their craft. It's something I'll really miss about Italy.
Watching Italians interact, especially around food, is also fun. Aside from the impressive amount of gesticulating, conversations draw on and there’s lots of banter and joking. It helps that the language itself has a beautiful flow to it, which sounds musical when people are going on about nothing in particular.
One of my favorite images was driving by our little local market that is owned by an older couple, and seeing the gentleman tending to his new olive tree. He had a sweet smile on his face. Perfetto.
Italy has so many problems in terms of its government, but the people still manage to create a beautiful life. It's inspiring and I'm so grateful to be here.
By the way, how could I forget! We harvested our hosts grapes last week! It's a small and young field so the yield was low and it took about 4 hours with 5 people. We loaded up the cars and took everything up to the 'cantina' mashed it all up and let the fermentation begin! It was super fun and we were tired by the end of the day. Not because it was particularly hard work, but just because it was so exciting!