May 5, 2006

Seasons best…Primavera

Living in the countryside has me much more in touch with the seasons, as everyday there is something new going on, expecially in spring. Winter seems never ending and when spring arrives, it explodes!

The green valley in front of my house

Vines climbing up, young grape bunches, just flowers now

Yesterday's cherry blossoms ... today's cherries.

It is the light more that anything that excites me, highlighting the emerald green hills in the morning, and in the evenings creating glowing castles that make me want to paint or break out my camera.

Inspired by Tana and her small farm blog, I thought I would let you know what is happening in the hills near my home in Certaldo. I will try to document some of the local producers and interview them.

Certaldo is a beautiful hill town, built all in red brick. It is very tiny and full of atmosphere, not really a tourist town as there is really a living village and not a series of shops.

Boccaccio, author of the Decameron, was born here and it is possible to visit his house. The old town hall is lovely, covered in ceramic crests. For food lover’s, Osteria del Vicario, received its well deserved Michelin star and is a lovely place to stop for lunch, with it’s wonderful outdoor dining, overlooking the valley.

Certaldo and the surrounding valleys are also Chianti wine producing villages, not Chianti Classico, which is limited to the hills where it originated, Radda, Castellina and Gaiole.
The hills are lined with vineyards, olive trees and farm houses, still working farms. My neighbors the Tinti’s still sell their wine in bulk, Vino Sfuso, if you go by with your demijohns!

I found a fabulous old demijohn the other day at the garbage cans… and oops… found it’s way into the trunk of my car and is now in the garden.

They are so beautiful with the handwoven cord coverings on the top and the woven basket holding the large 25 liter bottles.

We have fabulous memories of hauling a demijohn up three flights of stairs filled with wine from Montalcino and filling the bottles, topping them off and corking them to store for drinking at a later date always ending up in drunken bliss.

Judy: “ Ahh, this bottle has too much wine in it.”
Andrea: “ Just drink some of it to even it off”

Judy: “ Oops, this one doesn’t have enough.”
Andrea:” Add more from one of the bottles.”

Judy:” Oops, now it has too much again.”

Repeat this for 25 liters of wine.. and you get the idea!

Now that I am teaching full time and we are buying bottled wine, no more rolling on the floor, but am tempted to go and pick some wine up from the Tinti’s for the summer for home use and start the season off with a good laugh!

When I go down to the village to shop, my vegetable lady, Paula, is also a valley girl, living at the bottom of the hill where I come down from, I pass the family farm daily. I could stop and buy my vegetables from the farm, but would miss out on the local gossip I get my shopping in the village.

The market is also green right now, fresh fava beans, artichokes, asparagus, peas are all filling the shelves and our tables.

The first tomatoes from Naples are also coming in, looking like small pumpkins and still lightly tinted green and acidic to the bite, these are perfect for salads.

Salad making is an art in Italy from the selection of the greens to the dressing.

Lettuce or wild greens?

Extra virgin olive oil or course but red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or a blessing of 12 year old traditional Balsamic Vinegar?

Salt… from Sicily, the Himalayan mountains or a lovely fleur de sal?

So many choices to please our palates.

Personally, I love wild greens with mostly oil, a pinch of salt and no vinegar. The greens are so full or flavor, it really only needs to be gilded with the oil.

Often on the side I will dress the salad tomatoes with oil, salt and red wine vinegar (made from my left over wines) and left to marinade.

Right now I enjoy marinated tomatoes even for breakfast.. can’t get enough of them.

As soon as spring arrives, it seems that summer sneaks right in.
My husband noted that the fireflies should soon be out!

Take time to enjoy the moment.. Carpe Diem and seasons gifts to our tables at their best.

Go to your local farmer's market..and hug your farmer or your produce guy.. here's mine!

Stefano Conti in the Mercato San Lorenzo


  1. Hey, I already hugged your produce guy...

  2. Diva, what a great post! Thank you for taking the time to do it and sharing it with us. You know, I was just thinking that this post would be perfect also for the Farmers Markets Parade we are hosting right now. Entries will be received until June 1st. Please take a look at the guidelines for this event here:
    And the latest roundup is here:
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Spent the afternoon at a favorite U-Pick asparagus farm. Also spinach. The Pendleton family is recovering from a March tornado (we are in Kansas). Slow Food lunch with asparagus dishes and wine, Yum. The view is not yours, but the produce is good. We love our local farmers! We love spring!

  4. David.. aren't you glad I share!

    Diva.. will stop by your site and write up the San Lorenzo market for you.

    are you blogging too???

  5. Great to hear what I have to look forward to! Can't wait for the class in 2 weeks!


  6. Looks like your farmers are as hunky as mine!

    : D

    Santa Cruz has some seriously gorgeous farmers.

  7. hey, he's kind of cute.... is he single? :)

    you should hug your produce guy and your butcher.

  8. Wow, that sounds fantastic...I am very envious. I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in a rented farmhouse in Tuscany (near Trequanda) about 10 years ago. It was about the same time of year...with your post and lovely pictures, you have taken me right back there. Thank you.

  9. I just came across your blog and it's fantastic. What beautiful photos! I was actually in Certaldo a few years ago and stayed at the Fattoria Bassetto - I loved it and day-dream about returning all the time ;).