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Wine Tastings, Drought, And The Italian Exodus

Benvenuti and Welcome to all my Lovely Followers,

If you are new to this column I should tell you that each month I reflect back on the previous one, which in this case is August 2017. My aim is to bring you lots of fun things, and not too many serious ones.Firstly, let’s raise a glass to the Italian Aperitivo Time, which is usually between 6pm and 8pm, depending on what part of Italy you are in. Our favourite local place for wonderful cocktails is Jam Caffe in Certaldo. In the early evenings, particularly Fridays in August, a long chilled cocktail went down very well indeed. Whilst mid-month saw a brief shower of rain, it quickly returned to the hot stifling weather of July, which was to continue right up until the 1st September!

Meanwhile, the month was hosting numerous Festas, the Italians have unlimited excuses to celebrate. The month started with La Festa dell’Unicorno, a crazy event into which Italians flood from miles away, purely to dress up in whatever takes their fancy. This year the theme was fantasy, so you can imagine the kinds of costumes walking around. Then in our local village of Fiano, a three day event included a village photo display in the Old Cinema, a visit to Roberto’s sculptor studio and music with food in the main piazza, where cars were banned over the weekend. Oh, then there was the Vitalita Wine Tasting and Dance event, right next door to us at La Poggiolaia, which is an Agriturismo in a stunning setting. I could go on, but there would be no room for the rest of this column!

Now, I cannot avoid talking about the drought, which had a profound effect on the vines and other crops in our little bit of Chianti. Virtually no rain for nearly three months left the fields, gardens and vineyards bleached and bone dry. Somehow, most of the vines survived and the green leaves stood out in contrast to near white land. But some of the grapes may not be up to the normal quality, having been boiling on the vines at over forty degrees for weeks on end. However, knowing the resilient producers of Chianti wines, we will still get some superb bottles coming our way!

Of course, August is the month when many thousands of Italians rush off to the coast or the mountains. The Exodus was massive this year, due to the intense inland heat. The newspapers talked about beaches with standing room only and cars nose to tail on the motorways for hundreds of miles. Yes, you are right, if you want to visit Tuscany, August is not the month to come. The coast is bad enough, but the abandoned towns and villages inland are 80% closed, you would be lucky to find a restaurant or bar open; unless you are in the know of course!

Meanwhile, down in the beautiful city of Florence, the director of the Uffizi Gallery was campaigning to bring the Statue of the Sabine Women inside, as he claimed ‘Giambologna’s sculpture was at risk from rising temperatures, air pollution and increased tourism!’ He suggested that a replica should be made to replace it, just like the one of David already in La Piazza della Signoria. If you have not seen the Sabine Women sculpture in the Loggia dei Lanzi in the same Piazza close up, I can tell you it is quite spectacular.

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Shock horror in Siena; the night after The Palio one of the towers in the Piazza del Campo caught fire! Il Torre di Mangia came alight in the night, possibly caused by an ornamental candle falling onto the wooden floor. The Piazza had to be cleared until it was made safe, which caused a great deal of panic, particularly with the crowds still around after The Palio!

But on a brighter note, August celebrated the crowning of the new Miss Toscana (Tuscany), a very pretty twenty-six year old mother called Lavinia Mannucci. Yes, Italy still loves this kind of thing.

And, last but not least we celebrated La Sagra Della Cipolla, the festival of the Certaldo Onion. This is no ordinary onion. It is the celebrated sweet red onion only grown in the Certaldo area and is absolutely delicious. People come from far and wide to buy them at the Saturday morning market. There are two varieties, eaten finely sliced and raw, in various dishes and soups and, my favourite, bottled as a sweet marmalade. Yummy!

Well, enough of that. Must get this column posted. Have a great September and see you next month.

Salute June x

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