Proprietor of Pornanino, Matteo
Sleeping just a bit into the morning, Kathleen and I rustled ourselves awake and make some hot tea to kick start the day. We conjured plans for this morning to find our way to a family run olive oil operation outside of Radda in Chianti for a class on what makes a good oil. The GPS was programmed by coordinates the night before, and I felt quite assured we would find this place in plenty of time…thus the conversation lingered luxuriously over our little table in the rabbit hole.
Sure enough, we do find Pornanino, the olive oil and agriturismo operation. However, I will admit I questioned it as we bumped and bustled over one of the lovely unpaved back roads of Chianti….a new one for me, which is always exciting. We arrived with a few minutes to spare, which surprised Matteo, the owner, along with his wife Francesca. He told us it’s much more the norm for folks to get lost. Based on a year ago and my Tuscan adventures sans beloved GPS, I completely understand!
A tour group of about 12 folks show up, along with a couple from England, and we all take our seats to listen to Matteo’s interesting talk on what makes quality, but more importantly, healthy olive oil. I knew about 50% of what he shared, and it was great to learn more from one who truly knows. Basics to remember…Virgin olive oil, cold pressed, not from a variety of countries, and preferably from a producer you’re familiar with. And color doesn’t matter, believe it or not!
We sampled their oil on crostini, and yes…it was divine! We’re somewhat spoiled as we are privy to Casamonti’s fabulous oil (from all those gorgeous tress I love walking by), but it was great to learn more about the whole process. And as with most new experiences, it wasn’t only the knowledge and experience we received that were the morning’s gifts…oh no….there was also the fabulous unexpected that seems to pop up all over in this country! We’d met the English couple, Ian and Moira, before the seminar and had chatted a bit. Afterwards, we all visited a bit more, and they graciously invited us to join them for coffee at the apartment on the property that they were taking a holiday in.
A couple of purchases made, including the most beautiful sterling silver olive branch pin designed by Francesca’s mother, sweetly gifted to me by Kathleen, and we joined Ian and Moira under the partly cloudy sky, all of us seeking the solar warmth like Equatorial lizards.
We were given fresh pressed coffee and a plate of Moira’s homemade “flap jacks”. Now before you go envisioning a big ol’ stack of pancakes , hold your horses, pard’ner! This is the English version…a delightful, chewy, honey-sweetened concoction of oats, nuts, and seeds. It was delicious!! Moira told us it’s a staple in England…and comes in many varieties. It’s probably what we base our granola bars on, but oh wow…I’ve never met one that tasted this good! Moira promised to email me the recipe, so we’ll see if I can come close to this delicacy back on the shores of Texas. Our conversation was fun and lively, and we parted feeling the pleasure of having yet two more new friends on this small little orb we call earth.
Since we were so close to Radda in Chianti, we drove on in and parked on the outer street, then walked into the pedestrian area. The medieval streets were rather quiet as we wandered a bit, finding a shop to finish up some take-home affairs for Kathleen. Hunger pangs were starting to win us over, so we opted to leave the touristy streets and headed out of the town walls to a local bar. Great choice, as they always are, for a cheap panino, some water, and of course…that lunch time wine (note to self: you can’t continue this Italian tradition at home!). We picked up free Wifi, so it was a great opportunity to do some catch up with home, as well as a brief Skype show and tell with my parents. Fun!
A quick gelato in hand, we hopped back in the car and drove to the wonderful hilltop town of Monteriggioni, one of my favorites. It’s small, sits on a hilltop inside a wonderfully intact circular fortress wall that sports enough tower effect to give your imagination plenty of help to reverse course a thousand years or so. These towns are certainly tourist attractions, but I don’t want my readers to lose sight that residents and the doings of every day life still inhabit all these towns and villages.
Italy, and maybe particularly Tuscany, has done an incredible job of preserving the feel of this ancient land. It’s by tight and firmly enforced restrictions, but in the long run that’s probably a good thing. No new buildings are allowed, at least in Chianti. Old structures must be rebuilt to certain standards, and even the numbers of grape vines are controlled. Restrictive, yes…but I have no doubt it’s one of those great pay-off things as a whole.
A bit weary, the two of us meandered back to Casamonti to dine on the bean and prosciutto soup I’d prepared the night before. Prior to, I filled a pot to take to Anna Rita and Ray, and we intercepted a wine tasting as we made our way to the main kitchen. Kathleen got to meet Anna Rita, and we found ourselves at the inside table for a quick glass of Casamonti Chianti, shared with the two tour drivers, one being Paolo who was the fellow who brought me, along with friend Tammy, out to Casamonti for the very first time 3 years ago. A nice aperativo over a lively conversation was a perfect close to the adventures of the day.
Stomachs satisfied after our humble meal, we wound the night down with talk and tea, and it wasn’t long until sleep called loud enough to win us over.
Paula A. Reynolds
Traveler or Tourist?
All photos used in this blog were taken by the author, the author's husband or friends, or found by way of images.google.com. Photo credit is given when possible.