I’m all about going to new places and meeting new people, but there are some people and places that you just have to visit again. My friend, Sergio, is one of them. Driving from Verona to Sergio’s agriturismo wasn’t going to take too long, so I talked Matt into a bit of a detour to Lucca, a city in Tuscany. Tucked inside the modern city is a treasure surrounded by walls dating back to the Renaissance. We found this gate and walked inside to explore.It was a lovely town inside those formidable walls.We didn’t have much time, but I was eager to see a church that was mentioned in our tour book. The facade of San Michele in Foro is just incredible. Each column looked different! As Matt and I wandered around Lucca, we looked for all the towers that were featured on a coin purse I had purchased. We found them all! And I admired the lovely Italian pottery. Oh, I love it!I wished we had time to ride bikes on the top of the wall. If we ever go back, I want to do that. But it was time to move on.We arrived at Sergio’s agriturismo, Settesoldi, and were greeted as old friends. As they prepared dinner, Sergio and Cecilia assured me that they still had “my” plate, silverware and pot that they saved special for me and others with food intolerances. Sergio asked about my jewelry business and I explained that I had also expanded to designing patterns for rug hooking. It took a bit for him to understand what I meant, but he got excited when I showed him my latest design that I said was inspired by the Italian pottery that I love. He ran inside and got a book for me to look at. “This is the ceramic that is typical of this area. You and Matt need to go see where they make it.” My latest design:
During a scrumptious dinner, Sergio poured what I thought was a LOT of olive oil on his pasta. I told him that lately I was hearing that what was sold in the USA as olive oil was poor quality. He proceeded to explain the difficulties of producing quality olive oil. Constant inspections must be done to the olives to make sure that a worm isn’t ruining the crop. In fact, he said that Cecilia has just that day used a scope to check the crop. Many places spray heavily to fight the worm, but then the pesticides end up in the oil. Sergio doesn’t do that, but he said the worm won this past year and his production was low. As I ate my dinner, I was much more appreciative of the delicious olive oil that we poured on our food. Our meal and wonderful conversation lasted well after 10:00 and it was time for bed. I slept well in the beautiful room with lavender sprigs under my pillow.
The next day, we planned to explore since Matt was supposed to work in the evening. We were about to take off when Matt called to make sure the schedule was okay with the customer. They hadn’t gotten the emails telling them he was coming that night, but preferred for him to go immediately to do the work. So off he went. Suddenly, I found myself alone at Sergio’s place. In fact, everyone had taken off, even Sergio. So, I opened our room door to let in the sunshine and set about writing a blog post. Soon after hearing a car arrive at the agriturismo, I heard Sergio call up to my open door. “Janine, are you here?” I explained that Matt had had to go to work and I was writing a blog. But, Sergio was not happy with that. “No, this is not good.” He asked if I would like to visit a pottery factory. Would I?!?! I sure would!
As we zipped around curves and flew down dirt roads, Sergio apologized for the state of his vehicle. I assured him that being a country girl myself, that I was not interested in a car being pristine. We passed by some of the many cypress trees that were planted in rows. I had always admired these trees and just thought of them as some extra beauty in Italy, but Sergio explained that cypress trees are planted to keep soil in its place…erosion control. We laughed a lot as we drove through Tuscany with the windows down. Conversation always gets interesting with my lack of speaking Italian. But Sergio knows a lot of English! Still, it took much longer to get thoughts to be understood and sometimes we would need to use Google translate. We stopped at an arch in the middle of a town and he showed me caper plants growing on the side.
I’ve always wondered what capers were! I had found them a bit confusing. Usually when I saw them used in a dish, they seemed like little seeds. But Cecilia had served them with dinner the night before and they almost seemed like large olives. They were both capers?
Sergio pointed out the flowers on the plant and then some buds that hadn’t bloomed yet. The buds are what I had usually seen used in cooking. The capers that we had eaten the night before were the fruit of the plant. Mystery solved!
Of course, I understood nothing that they said to each other. We came to a room where there were items for sale. Even though the ceramics for the area were not as brightly colored as I was used to seeing in Italian pottery, I was drawn to it. Sergio explained that these colors had been used for centuries. He was going to buy a plate. I decided that I wanted one too, the one on the upper left.
Sergio and the potter spoke at length in expressive language about the price. At first I tried to understand what was going on, but failing at that, I just wandered around taking photos of the beautiful pieces.
Finally, a price was agreed upon for our plates. Sergio also bought a ceramic duck. I was given the task of keeping the duck safe as we flew back to the agriturismo and then he asked for my help in finding just the right spot for the new decoration. He grabbed a sickle and chopped weeds and lo and behold, there was another such duck sitting on the hillside. It was just waiting for a companion. Matt came home from work and we rested until dinner time. Was I ever surprised when walking into the dining room. The duck had made it’s way onto the dinner table!
Cecilia served another scrumptious meal. So much so, that I asked if I could look at her cookbooks. All in Italian, but I took photos of some recipes with my cell phone. I asked which recipes were her favorites. She pointed to her head. That’s where the cooking magic came from. Oh, I wished for longer with them so I could learn Italian cooking from her. Sergio said, “The next time you and Matt want to come for two nights, I am going to say no. There is so much more I want to show you!” Matt and I laughed. “You won’t allow us to come for only two nights? How long do we have to stay?” I asked. Sergio smiled, “At least fifteen days.” Fifteen days sounds good to me, my friend. I have much more to learn from you. In the meantime, I’ll have to be content with looking at the ceramic plate hanging on my wall and reliving Tuscan memories.