Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Nature Trails of Italy

The past few days have been a blur. Somehow, something hit me, and I became a host for a germ party. So blogging and wine have not been high on my list.

In fact, putting out three unique posts a week in the last year has taken a bit of a toll. And while I don’t intend to stop, somewhere down the road this will probably go to a twice weekly kind of activity. It’s just too much to do. We'll see.

I've been thinking about nature trails of Italy, trails like we have so many of in America. Where I come from in the West, we were always on some trail or another, looking at coyotes, hawks, ponderosa pines, majestic mountains. My childhood, was spent sitting before a very large and wonderful mountain, Mt. San Jacinto, and just staring into the many faces and aspects of it. Different times of the day or the year, there would be familiar scenes that would show up.

I don’t ever have enough time to take those trails in Italy, but once in a while I have been lucky to get on a little path, something that usually didn’t have anything to do with wine or grapes, but everything to do with being a lover of nature.

It was the 4th of July and a Sunday, and a group of friends decided to go up into the hills in the Marche and have a mass and a picnic. There was a little chapel where we first stopped. Some of the youth set up their instruments and music and played through the mass. On the way down to lunch, I was talking to the priest. We talked about wine and he was so proud that the wine he used in the mass was a D.O.C. from the Marche. Ah yes, Italy, where even the little details matter.

By a summer house people started setting up the charcoal cookers and setting the long tables, for now we were a larger group of 30. About this time someone suggested a hike, which struck me as funny, because I had never really been around Italians who liked to hike. In my early days, like I said, we were always doing that sort of activity, but in Italy, it was unheard of. So I jumped at the thought of getting on a trail and seeing how the Italians would deal with it.

The hike was beautiful; we truly got out and away, to the point where we got lost. One of us had a cell phone and they called the home base and someone honked horns and walked us in back to the waiting lunch. Really a funny experience and one that I will remember along with my river rafting and mountain climbing experiences.

Even though it was the 4th of July and we weren’t in America where the holiday was celebrated, we had food that reminded me of home. Watermelon, roasted sausages (resembling hot dogs, but much better tasting) and corn on the cob, something I rarely find in Italy. And lots of red wine from the Marche, Rosso Piceno, Sangiovese married to Montepulciano, a wonderful combination. And while I love Sangiovese on its own and Montepulciano in purezza, the combination of these two grapes is special. Fruity, savory, spicy, acidic, a great balancing act.

The next time you think about visiting Italy, think about this. Yes, take time to visit Florence or Venice or Rome. By all means, do that. But take a day or two and go to the Cinqueterre or La Sila in Calabria. Or get out into the Tuscan countryside and take a day hike. Don’t worry if there isn’t a two star Michelin nearby, you won’t starve. And yes maybe the little albergo that you find at the end of the day might not have air conditioning, but open the window at night and breathe in the fresh, pure air and sleep like you never have. Take a moment to spend some time in the vanishing nature of Italy.

Photos from Webshots friend Ruggero, from the series,
Greek Calabria, a wonderful series of photographs. Please go see and enjoy.


David said...

True Wisdom

tiffg said...

my husband and i will be driving from Venice thru Tuscany to Rome. and DO'S or DON'TS you recommend, and any wineries we should make sure to see?

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