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
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