An entry from my journal dated June 8th, 2010
We spent a complete day away from our Casa Ombuto home today. After a healthy breakfast we loaded onto a small tour bus arranged by Casa Ombuto’s Manager,Barbara and headed toward the medieval town of Arezzo, about a half hour drive. It was cool enough for a light sweater. It was interesting to watch the bus driver maneuver the small dirt roads, especially when cars approached us, and once again to view the countryside from the bus! ( I had to keep my eyes on the road when we were driving our Fiat.). Because it was a weekday the motorcycles were not flying past us. Our tour guide Eleanora gave us a Tuscan history lesson, which was very interesting and informative. The best thing I learned was that Italy is a younger country than America…..it became an independent country in 1860. They had just celebrated their 50th anniversary June 2nd….Italy’s Independence Day. That makes me better understand why the regions are so proud of their own heritage, telling you at every opportunity that the Romans are the true Italians, or the Napolitano’s or Venitians’, depending on where you are at the moment.
When we arrived in Arezzo we went to the cathedral where Pope Gregory is entombed. He is actually laying under glass with a mask that is made of wax and then covered in golf leaf over his face, a very small man. He died over two hundred years ago and his body remains in tact, quite amazing. Some of the portions of the churches architecture date back as far as 13 th Century.
We walked thru the town to the square where they were preparing for the medieval jaust, erecting bleachers for spectators. The family crests of the most important families in Tuscany were hanging from the buildings surrounding the square. Piero Della Francesco, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello as well as Guido Monaco, were born within 100 kms.
The next stop was a wine tasting…..can we go 24 hours, or even 12 without wine? Not in
Tuscany!!! We stopped at a true villa, Villa La Ripa, which recently discovered Roman remains prove that this is one of the oldest vineyards in the entire region. The chateau is located on the limestone plateau which produces some of the appellation’s finest grapes. We enjoyed a tasting of two wonderful wines and the owners explanation of his grapes and his efforts to produce an “excellent” wine. I purchased a case of his award winning Cabernet Tatania for our cellar.
On to the beautiful town of Anghiari where we visited an olive oil mill. Fredrico took us up the stair to the actual mill where two large limestone presses smash the olives and turn them into a pulp which is then placed on round disks that act as filters which are stacked five high and moved to the press where the oil is extracted. The Bartolomei family has produced olive oil for generations right in this factory that dates back to the 13 th century. We shared a tasting of infused oils of lavender, thyme
Kelly and I were excited to visit our next stop…..Busatti, a very fine quality fabric factory, where we were allowed to see the ancient carding looms weaving the wools of the Appennines, which stretch between the Tiber and the Arno rivers. The showroom held beautifully set dinner tables showing not only the finest linens I have ever seen, but, dishes and flatware as well. Any piece you would purchase here at the factory would sell for twice the price in the retail market in the US, so of course, I was excited to choose a beautiful table cloth and napkins which will become
an heirloom piece I expect.
Our last stop of the day was to the cheese farm. Our bus was greeted by several shepherding dogs who were happy to receive a belly scratching by most of us as we exited our bus. Eleanora gave us a lesson on the making of pecorino cheese and ricotta, both made from sheeps milk. The owner looked on as she spoke no English. After the factory tour we sat at their farm table and sampled the cheeses and some wonderful breakfast cakes and cheesecakes made from the cheeses produced by the farm.
Everyone dozed as we took the one hour ride back to Casa Ombuto, tired from our Tuscan tour. We rocked slowly as the bus made it’s way back through the mountain passes. Barbara and Eleanora fed us the minestrone soup we had prepared the day before with bread, our extra salad noicesse and a lovely dessert Laura had prepared for us. We all turned in early so we would be ready for our two session cooking lessons tomorrow, French and Spanish cuisine.
It was a fun filled day. I feel as if I am learning so much about the simple age old things that American marketing has tried to convince us is ….” made better in the USA “. We would never have been able to walk amongst working looms snapping photos back home.
Well, it.s off to sleep…..I miss you all so much, but I am living a dream…..buene notte.