Sunday, April 05, 2009

Primi Tartufi

After what can really only be described as a hellish week, with the theme of inexplicably broken fences and escaped pigs and all things wrong that could go wrong continuing, I am coming to the end of a much-needed relaxing weekend. Yesterday we drove to Pienza, hometown of Pope Pius II and one of the first planned cities [in Italy? Ever? I’m not sure, but Pius was the one to do it back in the 1400s].

From there we headed to a really beautiful natural hot spring to soak our sore muscles away. The drive itself was worth the trip— the area where Spannocchia is located is very hilly [bordering on mountainous], rocky, and densely forested. As you head south-east-ish, the landscape is transformed into gently rolling hills, intensely green right now from a week of rain. Cipressi [cypress trees] are exclamation points against the sky, and large herds of sheep white out some of the hillsides. The clouds, too, are gorgeous every day, always changing. Oftentimes it doesn’t look real, resembling more closely the backdrop of the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. If I haven’t mentioned the tramonti [sunsets] here yet it’s because it seems cliché, but they are the most beautiful I have ever seen, night after night. Sometimes, especially when I’m really tired after a long day of work, it feels like I’m beginning to take the beauty of the place around me for granted, but then I’ll look around and see olivi [olive trees] and ancient castelli [castles] and the sky against the surrounding mountains and it’s all new again.

Today Broni took us to a tiny town whose name escapes me now, to a tiny alimentare [deli]. We had a deliciously simple lunch of bread, formaggio, salumi e vino, all locally produced. I have completely fallen in love with the pecorino [sheep’s milk cheese] here. We’ve had all different kinds— young ones aged only 10 days, some aged 30, some over a year old. Also some that are aged in ash, or barley, or leaves, or that are made with pepperoncino. Today we tried a pecorino made with tartufi bianci [white truffles]. I’ve never had them before and the cheese was rich in a way I’ve never before experienced. Delizioso! But with pecorino you can’t really go wrong. Here’s hoping I can find it in the States.

Hard to believe I’ve already been here for a month. On the one hand, it feels like we’ve just arrived… and yet at the same time, it seems like I’ve been here forever. This routine feels comfortable, and I’ve been thinking already about how strange it will be to leave this place and wake up one morning with nothing to do, no animals to take care of or grain to mill or fences to build or mend. I think it will feel like something’s missing.


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