The first snow in Valtiberina, Umbria Tuscany
Olives in the hailstorm and palmtrees in the snow
"Olives on the rocks"
This year luckily we had late summer temperatures for the olive harvest. But it is not always like this and I remember one afternoon a few years ago, when suddenly in the middle of the harvest a hailstorm reared. We had placed the net under the olive tree and were almost done with the picking. Suddenly dark clouds appeared in the sky and before we knew it, it poured hailstones on uns and on our tree. Funnily the hailstones were of exactly the same size as the olives. So what to do? We quickly collected the net, filled the yield of olives along with the hailstones into the boxes, chucked them into the car and drove off to the oil mill. The workers at the mill were pretty amazed when we showed up with our olives "on the rocks". Only the crazy Germans would pick olives in a hailstorm! However the hailstones melted away quickly when the olives were washed before the pressing and that day we had particularly good "iced" fresh olive oil.
Palmtrees in the snow
Saturday night finally the winter arrived and on our Sunday trip to the Upper Tiber Valley to our surprise everything was white. We went for a hike in the hills above Citta di Castello, walking in bright sunshine. The colorful foliage of the oak and maple trees shone brightly against the glistening snow. As the snow was melting away we could not help to get some charges of snow dropping on our heads. And in some places he first hellebores already peeped out.
Terme di Fontecchio is situated in a deep valley and exudes the melancholic charm of a spa from the last century. It has been abandoned a few years ago, all shutters were closed down and the palm trees in the parc groaned under the first snow.
A Sunday outing of course includes a traditional lunch and so we turned to the "Taverna Toscana" in San Sepolcro. Everything there has remained unchanged for at least 40 years: the simple wood and marble tables, the tiny kitchen with an open fireplace for barbecueing, the limited number of dishes on the menu. Only the host, whose portrait on the wall shows him as a young man with a 1970ies long mane, looks a little different today ...
We eat "ribollita", the classic Tuscan vegetable soup, "Tagliata", grilled beef fillet with mushrooms, and "Torta della Nonna", an egg custard pie with pine nuts. All ingredients are of the highest quality and we are pleased that no "culinary experiments" are made. Simply a good Tuscan Sunday lunch at a very reasonable price.
Sansepolcro is the hometown of Piero della Francesca, the great master of Early Renaissance painting. His famous "Resurrection" is not to be seen at the moment because some halls of the Museo Civico of Sansepolcro are being restored. But there is also his polyptych with the "Madonna della Misericordia", who gives shelter to the faithful with her cloak.
Not only the motif, but also the simple and warm colours, the comforting blue and the velvety red against a golden background, make this picture so comforting.
In the small pictures around the Madonna we can see the hills of the Apennines around San Sepolcro. But they are not depicted in a warm autumn light as we saw them on our walk in the morning. They are oddly pale, deforested and look almost surrealistic. Did Piero della Francesca see his homeland as such a bare ground? Or did he simply want to highlight his coloured figures against a pale background?
An Umbrian "Fjord"
Behind Sansepolcro the Tiber is dammed and forms the Lago Montedoglio. It was created to curb the Tiber in its further course and to protect fields and towns against floods. In the setting sun, the lake lies there quietly and almost reminds us of a fjord surrounded by the hills of the Apennines. The last sun rays give life to the colourful autumn foliage.
Then it gets dark and even more quiet. The moon climbs slowly over the ridge to the east.