Weaver-artist Lin Hobley writes about her experiences on the Tastes & Textiles: Woad & Wool tour last May.
One of our first outings set the tone for the rest of the tour. We drove to the small medieval village of Mercatello sul Metauro where we were met by our charming Italian guide, Beatrice, who took us on a walking tour of the village and the church.
We participated fully in a bobbin lace making workshop and each of us was guided through the process by several amazing lace makers who all produce incredible lace pieces that are works of art.
We then joined a family-style lunch at Academia del Padlot, hosted by a group of men who had been cooking together for at least 15 years. Lots of drinking, toasting, eating and merrymaking, all in Italian, but the language of food and wine is universal. We visited behind the scenes in the kitchen where the men were evidently having a wonderful time.
Their wives and children joined us and there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie. We felt like we had been gathered into the hearts of their families.
The meal included the best of the local wines and pecorino cheeses and prugnoli, the local mushrooms in season.
After feeling thoroughly fêted and having had slightly too much of the local wine, we got back to our the ex-monastery where we were staying with just enough time for a walk in the country and a quick watercolour sketch before we regrouped.
Erica took us to visit the ruins of a Roman house in Sant’Angelo in Vado, where the mosaic floors were carefully and very thoroughly preserved. It was magical and we were able to imagine the life of a Roman family.
Over the next few days, we enjoyed all the activities that were on the itinerary, and as a weaver, I loved seeing the functioning weaving studios, of individual weavers and also the larger establishments that worked with the same looms that had been used since the 1800s. Here's a still-functioning linen loom at Tela Umbra a Mano in Città di Castello.
Each and every visit had something different to recommend it, most especially the welcoming and very knowledgeable artists and guides.
Every meal was a unique culinary experience as Erica took time to explain the local foods and wines and we felt like we were beginning to learn some of the names in Italian.
Throughout the tour, we experienced such a variety of different places, workshops, demonstrations, fabulous meals and tours. We got to know and have fun with our fellow participants, and Erica and her co-leader Cheryl made us feel comfortable and special every minute
When I look back on the experience, some of the moments that stand out for me were not just those on the planned itinerary. Several unexpected pleasures stay in my memory. On the tour of the monastery at Camaldoli and the monks’ living quarters, the mystical atmosphere created by a fine rain, rather than spoiling the day, made it even more magical. It was easy to imagine what the monks’ life might have been like. On the same day, the visit to the ancient chestnut tree that involved a rainy muddy walk did not deter Erica one bit. It was a small touch of magic.
I shared a touching interchange with the 10-year-old son of the weaver’s nephew at Elisa’s weaving studio when we played checkers. Despite not sharing a common language, we still connected in a special way.
There was the sweet Italian teacher of tombola lace who showed so much patience in sharing her passion for her craft.
I loved the walk one morning when staying at the Castello di Porciano where I was amazed by the beauty of the red poppies sprinkled over the hills, a Monet painting come to life. On the same walk getting back to the Castello we discovered an enormous moth and shared the experience with two elderly Italian ladies who lived in the cottages surrounding the castle, laughter being our common language.
I was touched by a special evening that Erica planned to celebrate my birthday that made up for being away from my family. But the thread running throughout the trip was Erica’s passion for sharing everything Italian: food, wine, art, local history and craft. It was an unforgettable ten days full of discovery, variety, unique experiences, memories and new friendships
By Alison Goldberger
2019 has been a year of welcoming talented and interesting guests to our plethora of tours and courses with Italian artisans. Tours and courses run throughout every month – it’s action packed here in Tuscany! Here’s a small selection of some of our favourite tours and images from the year! If you paid us a visit, thank you! And we look forward to welcoming more of you in 2020!
The first course of the year was the ever-popular Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany. This course was wonderful but we also had the sad job of saying goodbye to Giancarlo Russo who has collaborated with us on most of the Courses with Artisans since 2010. He followed his family to Florida where he’s selling Italian wines. We miss his broad knowledge about everything Italian as well as his kindness and sense of humour.
In February we visited a new dairy keen to share their knowledge with our guests on upcoming mozzarella courses. We met Salvatore and his team at Caseificio Giusti. The mozzarella course allows our participants to get hands on with the mozzarella-making process so dairies like this that are open to visitors are key. Our participants are mostly professional cheesemakers looking to add something to their business, or to improve on the mozzarella they currently make.
We also welcomed a lovely group of keen gelato-makers to the Art & Science of Gelato course at Cremeria Opera with the talented Mirko Tognetti!
We visited two lots of free range pigs and made salumi with their butcher-owners, one at the biodynamic Il Grifo farm, Bagno di Reggio Emilia and these sleek Nero di Parma pigs at the organic San Paolo farm, Medesano, during the Advanced Salumi Course Bologna-Parma. During the year we revealed some exciting news about this course! Previously you had to take the course in Tuscany first, but this year it we added some more hands-on work so you can take it on its own. It is of course also still possible to do them together though – they run one after the other!
Here are the smiling faces of our fun group on the Theory & Practice of Italian Cheese course!
Oh May! You brought us the fantastic Celebrating Sardinia tour! And what a tour it was. Trying to choose just one photo is difficult as this tour is filled with so much colour and interesting things to see and do. But I’ve chosen this colourful image of two of our guests standing in front of one of the decorated ox carts that parade during the Festa of Sant’Antioco. This year it was possible to get up close to the carts – something that wasn’t allowed in previous years. What a treat!
Oh, and we can’t forget the foodie surprise of the year! The wonderful feast at…wait for it…a gourmet Esso petrol station! This place was found during the Tastes & Textiles: Woad & Wool tour. It’s called Piacere Quotidiano (Daily Pleasure) and is owned by four brothers – they serve the best food in the area—all locally sourced!
Here’s Giulia Paltrinieri showing us the fascinating craft of card weaving during the Tastes & Textiles: Hanging by a Thread tour. We visited her at the restored Fortezza Verrucole and learned that the earliest archaeological remains of card weaving date from the 7th century BC at a site near Rome.
In July we were absolutely delighted to congratulate Roger Longman of White Lake Cheese on winning not one, but three awards in the Yorkshire Cheese Awards for his English Pecorino. He won Supreme Champion, Best New Cheese and Best Speciality Cheese for Ewe Beauty. He found out the news while on our Mozzarella & its Cousins course, but had previously taken the Theory & Practice of Italian Cheese course in 2016. He said he’d never have been able to make such good pecorino without it. We love to hear about the achievements of our former course participants. Whether that's winning awards or creating that perfect product at home – we are always happy to get some news in our inbox.
In August Erica took a fact-finding trip to Pescia to scout out some interesting people to visit during upcoming courses. There, she met Michele who showed her around the land of the Perterra agricultural cooperative. The project was created by young people with no background in farming. They bought 40 hectares of abandoned farmland with a grant from the Tuscan region and are now restoring its productivity. A truly fascinating project. Check out our blog post about this project and the other gems found in Pescia.
Creativity was flowing in September as we ran the Tastes & Textiles: Wine to Dye For tour. Our guests met the talented Tommaso Cecchi de’ Rossi who showed them his special technique for using wine as a dyeing mordant.
One of the great things about our tours and courses is that although they are well-planned, we also have some room for some unexpected trips! This was the case during the Giants of Sardinia tour. We came across coral and gold filigrana artisan Francesco Sanna. He works alongside his brother Giovanni. Francesco demonstrated various filigrana techniques. The coral they use comes from Sardinian waters and is responsibly fished.
The year came around full circle with the Advanced Salumi Course Tuscany marking our last course of the year! Here are our smiling course participants with norcino Massimo Bacci.
December is a time to relax, celebrate the holidays and think about the year ahead. This picture shows Lucca dressed for Christmas – 'always dreaming'. We hope you’re dreaming about travelling with Sapori e Saperi Adventures in 2020. We wish you all the best for the coming year!
If you’d like to join us in 2020 take a look at our website to see the full selection of tours and courses. For more info and to book drop Erica an email at email@example.com. We can't wait to see you!
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