I live in a tiny village on top of a mountain. There are few people here and we are surrounded by nature. There is no sound except for the birds, or sometimes after rain we can hear the river at the bottom of our mountain when it’s full and flowing fast.
This part of Tuscany is dramatic with snow-topped mountains standing majestic against a deep blue springtime sky.They change colour throughout the year, green in spring and summer, with the grey tips bare and grand. In autumn the colour starts to change to a rich gold and purple as the leaves lose their fresh look and the mountain heather shows itself.
One of the most spectacular natural phenomena that I love about this part of Italy, is the wonderful perfume that floods the air in late May and early June. There is nothing like it, exotic, mysterious and intense. You know that you live in a special part of the world.
This area is particularly famous for farro, an ancient spelt which is wonderful as a salad in the summer and, for me anyway, even more appetising in the winter as a thick and warming soup made with vegetables and beans and served with a spot of garlic bread. It is also a great place to find porcini mushrooms, with mushroom hunters keeping their “patch” secret and if asked if they found a lot after a day in the woods, they usually answer, “I found just enough to eat,” meaning not really. I have seen locals exclaiming in delight at a huge porcino on display outside of a local green grocer’s. Picking it up and holding it high for all to see. People are known for their porcini finding prowess and it is quite an honour to be considered a good finder.
We are also famous here for chestnuts. We are surrounded by chestnut woods and from late October on wards, the literally fall from above, as you drive or walk down the roads, they just drop from the trees. Chestnut flour is milled and can make a rich pasta, which is particularly good for those who can’t tolerate gluten. Goodies such as castagnaccio, a heavy flat cake type of dessert, made with pine nuts, rosemary and a hint of orange, or necci, a chestnut flour pancake usually served as a rolls, a bit like a cannelloni but stuffed with creamy ricotta. I love the castagnaccio, although it does look as though it is made from chocolate and so disappointed me with my first taste. The necci, I prefer without the ricotta, otherwise it’s too heavy.
This area is a spectacular one for walking and hiking. Everywhere you look there are unbelievable views. You can see for miles, even, on a clear day the island of Elba or as far as Sardinia. The best time to come walking is between April and June, then September to November. July and August are just too hot to be comfortable and the winter months mean that you can’t go up high due to the snow.
This is a truly stunning place to live, and I am grateful every morning when I wake up and look out of my window in the sky at those mere mortals below.