My stay at Vetriceto, run by Pierangelo and Cristina, was an absolute joy and a real treat. I learned to speak (a little bit of) italian, how to make jams and juices, but most importantly, not to take life seriously and to enjoy the little moments. Also, the food was amazing!
For the first five days, I picked red currants that will later be made into either jam or juice. I helped a little in the lab, where they make the jams and juices. It’s pretty high-tech for such a small operation, but it’s really cool to watch.
Making apricot jam! Pierangelo bought a fridge-worth’s of organic, locally-grown apricots from a friend of his. He cut them up, then mixed and heated them in this giant mixer. Next, he adds the sugar. He drains some of it (as shown).
He then the jam he took out back into the mixer to blend the sugar fully throughout all the jam. He does this for about an hour. He let me taste some and it’s super delicious! (but everything they make here is über, über yummy)
Pierangelo and Cristina also run a small agritourism. Agritourism is very popular in Tuscany. Farmers, who happen to have an extra, centuries-old building lying around on their forty-acre property, rent it out to tourists for a few weeks at a time.
The guest bedroom. I stayed in the small house by myself for the first few nights before the Quebec tourists came. When they did, Cristina and I spent the morning cleaning it out. This is the room I stayed in the small home for the first few nights. I decided to stay in the main house after the Quebecors left.
The work is pretty easy, but can be long. But I don’t care. Cristina and Pierangelo are so wonderful, I would work in the scorching heat if they needed something done. Knowing them, they wouldn’t allow it. They get me working in the morning, but the afternoon is usually so hot, they tell me: “don’t worry about it. You’ll finish another day. It’s too hot now.”
In the afternoons, I went for walks or hikes. Pierangelo used to be a park ranger at the nearest National Park, 2 km from Vetriceto. Coleen, a wwoof-er who was here for the beginning of my stay, told me Doto the dog can even take you for walks, but I prefer walking alone.
View of Vetriceto from atop the nearby mountain, Mt. Di Casi. It’s a bit of a hike, but it has an amazing view. If you do a whole 360 of Vetriceto, you see only trees and mountains, with maybe one or two houses peeking out from the forest in the distance.
Another view from atop Mt. Di Casi. A lot of Tuscany is protected by the government so the hikes here are spectacular. It’s very mountainous, so there are a lot of expensive italian sports cars that drive through. And to answer the question: have you seen many italian sports cars? Only, and really only, in the country. It’s a driving enthusiast’s playground. There are hills, tight turns that hug cliff edges and, while there’s a speed limit, there’s no one to enforce it. It’s not the typical postcard Tuscany I thought it would be, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
Il Mercato di Firenze
Cristina had invited me to join her to Florence Market, il Mercato di Firenze. Friday night, we stocked the car full of Vetriceto products and drove an hour in the night to Florence. We stayed the night at Pierangelo’s mother’s place, which is on the edge of Florence. Florence is entirely surrounded by the Tuscan countryside, so properties looking outwards, like Pierangelo’s mother’s townhouse, have an amazing view of the Tuscan countryside and can be worth a lot.
The view in the morning from the balcony of Pierangelo’s mother’s townhouse. On the hill, on the right, is Roberto Cavalli’s Tuscan home.
Early in the morning, we drove into the town centre before tourists jammed the streets. The city of Florence holds many markets per week, but this is considered to be the fanciest. Expensive organic produce and products from Tuscan artisans set-up once a month in the old and very central Piazza della Repubblica.
Piazza della Repubblica. It’s two blocks from il Duomo, three blocks from the City Hall and a few more from the Ponte Vecchio. It’s in tourist territory, essentially. Look at the weather!!
In our down time, like during the ride over to Florence and at the market, Cristina has been teaching me italian. I have a long way to go, but I am definitely more confident now then I was when I first arrived in Italy. I can actually put sentences together!
Unfortunately, it was so hot out (about 35 degrees in a very, very humid city centre), hardly any locals came out. They know there will be another market, although not this one, later on in the week somewhere else in town that’s probably cheaper. As for the tourists, Cristina was grateful that I was there. She speaks little English and most of the tourists are young, English-speaking university kids like me. It also makes for good business if the customer can relate to the seller.
The big tent. The Edison bookstore has its own huge, air-conditioned tent full of books of Florence. They have chairs for people to sit down and read. Edison has a giant store located in the Piazza, that’s why it’s the only commercial tent at the market.
Because there weren’t many people at the market, Cristina took me for a gelato and showed me around the old part of town. At every farmer’s market I’ve been to, the farmers know each other and help each other out. If one goes out for lunch, the other looks after his/her stand.
Il Duomo. This is probably the most visited site in Florence. It was built in the 12th century and took around two-hundred years to complete. Up until recently, cars were allowed in the square, but smog stained the marble. Now, it’s filled with tourists. Visiting il Duomo is not disappointing. I had no expectations going to Florence for the market. I didn’t think I’d be walking around the most beautiful part of the city. Seeing Duomo totally blew me away. It’s so big, I don’t have one picture that captures it all.
Il Duomo. Cristina told me that in Tuscany there is a saying: “Opera del Duomo”. It means: l’oeuvre du Duomo, meaning something takes forever to do, like writing a book or building a house single-handedly is an opera del Duomo.
On our way back to the market, a parade for Krishna passed. People were dressed in costumes and were singing and dancing all the way down the street. It was a celebration of love and life.
Krishna is love. Love is Krishna. My cheeks hurt so much from smiling. At this point, my heart was ready to explode.
Florence is absolutely stunning. An absolute must if you go to Italy. Because it has seen so few wars and battles, the Middle-Age is intact and blends beautifully with the Renaissance. Mattia, Pierangelo and Cristina’s son, has offered to take me to Florence Thursday, which works out perfectly because I’m leaving Thursday. He’ll show me around Florence, more than what Cristina showed me. He is currently a student there, so he knows the city pretty well. Can’t wait!
French wwoofer Jennifer
The day before I left, Cristina and Pierangelo welcomed another wwoofer, Jennifer from Tours near Paris. She was very outgoing and very eager to discover and learn. Also, she asked about the pool. The pool had been empty during my entire stay, but I hadn’t bothered to ask about it. Jennifer, on her first day, asked about it. Right away, she started scrubbing away to get it filled up and ready for the next day.
Jennifer on Mt Di Casi. We went for a short hike while waiting for the pool to fill up.
POOL! Yeah, this whole farming thing turned out pretty well.
I had the best time at Vetriceto. Cristina and Pierangelo are wonderful! If I ever come back to Italy, I will definitely give them a call. For more pictures of Vetriceto or to learn more about what they do, check out their website at : www.agriturismovetriceto.it.
I’m going to spend a few days in Florence, before taking off for Rome. In Rome, I’m going straight to the airport where I’ll spend the night. My flight to Croatia leaves at seven in the morning and it’s cheaper to sleep in an airport than a hostel. Also, I’m beginning to think I should have booked longer than just a week in Croatia. Flights are pretty cheap so I can always stay longer…
Anyhow, until next time,