I was stretched out on a lounge chair, sedated by a carbohydrate-loaded lunch of bruschetta with sweet tomatoes, and pates of white beans, mushrooms and liver, followed by home made pasta with a rich ragu sauce. The finale had been a toss up between the Tiramasu or Panacotta with red berries. The wine was from the grapes growing in the fields below me, here in the Chianti region of Italy.
My eyes were shut, I was drowsy with satisfaction and just about to drift off when there was a low rumble in the distance. I would have let it rumble along but my sister woke me from my reverie ” What’s that?” She asked. I knew I would have to bring my consciousness to the surface to answer. Should I just ignore her, or come up with a joke. Too tired to think of something along humorous lines, I told her it was just a storm over in the distance. I squinted out of one eye at the pure blue sky decorated with a few puffs of white clouds. Closed my eyes again and let myself sink once more into that delightful state of blankness.
The rumble was louder this time. I again opened one eye just the tiniest bit. “Oh oh, what happened in the last few minutes?” The clouds had all come together to form a large black mass that was hanging ominously overhead. The patchwork of countryside was now partly in shade while the rest was sunny. Uncanny. More rolling thunder and getting closer and closer. I sat up, looked at the sheets and laundry hanging limply on the line and wondered if the Signorina would be out to rescue them.
The air cooled, I retreated into our apartment expecting a rainstorm any moment.
Memories of childhood summers spent with my aunt at her home in the hills above Cannes in the south of France, came flooding back. There the skies would open and there would be torrential rain, lightening, thunder and just as suddenly, it would end. The sun would come back out and the water would be lifted back up as steam.
Not today. The thunder did its best but no rain followed. It left and once more we were basking in warm sunshine. Perched on the old stone wall, dotted with occasional terracota pots with red and white begonias, I looked out on this amazing scene that had not changed in hundreds of years.
Other homes, as old as the fifteenth century stone farmhouse that we were staying in, were off in the distance.
Patches of olive groves, swaths of vineyards, fruit trees, tall cypress and other vegetation all fitted together like jigsaw pieces to create a divine landscape. This is the Chianti district of Italy, the area below Florence but above Siena. Famous for hundreds of years for producing red wine, almost every farm had a vineyard and either processed its own grapes, or took them to the Black Rooster coop. The shelves of the local supermarket as well as speciality stores are filled with wines bearing the names of many of the small communities of this area.
Our agritourismo where we are staying in Radda, Le Fraschette, is just one of hundreds of wineries that makes its wine from start to finish.
Excitement around the farm is building as relatives begin to arrive to prepare for the harvest in just four days time. About twenty people will turn up and clippers in hand, will pick the grapes from the field below us.
They will work long hours and be done in just two days. Already relatives are arriving to prepare for the big day. The workers have to be fed.
It’s time to let the dogs out, grab the guns and go hunting! Dogs have an uncanny sense of time and for the past couple of days they have been baying and howling, anxious to be released to join the fun. Male members of the extended family are arriving for an early start in the morning and there is anticipation of bringing home at least twenty rabbits for the women to make into Ragu de Coniglio to go with all that home made pasta. The bottles from last year’s harvest are ready to be enjoyed along with the meal.
Le Fraschette is an idyllic spot to simply slow down and savor the timeless simplicity of a life lived on this very estate for over five hundred years. Desiree Gagliardi, our hostess, came to live here twenty years ago when she married into the family – a family that has lived within these old stone walls for many generations.
Desiree is the only one with a rudimentary knowledge of English and an absolute delight. There are two apartment on the grounds and we had a choice.
I couldn’t resist the one with the window offering a scene as if lifted from a Renaissance painting.
What a pity that we cannot stay as long as the previous tenant, a couple who drive here every year from Denmark to enjoy three long weeks of peace and tranquility. At the very least, if we could just stay to help with the harvest…. Sadly, we will have to return again another year or maybe we should come back in November when it’s time to pick the olives?