Today was excursion day! We boarded a bus that had no business being on the scary gravel road, and headed to Arezzo. This region of Tuscany is made of medieval walled mountain towns. They are full of architecture from the 13th century forward, and usually have remarkable cathedrals or a castle. The cathedral in Arezzo, despite being 800 years old, had the most amazing altar I have ever seen:
Next, we headed for our wine tasting at Villa La Ripa. The owner and his family are the 5th to own this villa in 800 years. He bought it 20 years ago. It had originally belonged to a Medici. He was telling us the history over a glass of wine in his music room. The walls were covered in frescos which he said dated back to when that part of the villa was built in the 16th century. He gestured towards me and said so does the chair I am sitting on. Yikes! In the US this chair would be in a museum. He found a marble capital (top of a Roman column) which led to some research that confirmed the ancient Romans lived on that spot and also that they produced wine.
Next we headed to an olive oil farm. The family grows olives and has a press that appears ancient. The son is running the business, and explained that local families bring their olive harvest to his press also. He showed us how the oil is made, then his mother made us lunch and served it to us in their family home. We met many people in his family, and his father, who spoke no English but communicated through me in French, proudly showed us a book that had a photo of his father shaking JFK’s hand as part of an agriculture diplomatic visit in 1961. The lunch began with an olive oil tasting, with the son presenting all of his experiments with flavor. Lunch ended with an obligatory tasting of his grappa (he makes a small amount of wine, also). It was such a wonderful visit with two families to see how they live and to learn about their products. Here is the olive oil farm:
He told us how he is planning a big party for the family’s 600 anniversary in the villa in 2021. It will last a week with a different chef every day, and we are invited!
Back to our villa where we had the minestrone soup I made in our first class and delicious panna cotta (kind of an Italian flan) for dessert. Class again tomorrow, and maybe Cortona if the weather is good.