The days are getting shorter. The nights are a little cooler. Summer is slowly coming to an end, but the warm sun still offers very beautiful days. It invites us to take advantage of the last moments of heat, without delay.
The cries of joy of the children in the swimming pool resonate even louder, as does their la parents' laughter. We pull up a deck chair in the shade of the trees to finish the novel we started at the start of the vacation. But, as usual, we let ourselves go once again to doze off in the torpor of the afternoon, lulled by the sound of the wind.
Summer is the season of fruits!
It is the season of fragrant strawberries which, when freshly harvested, exhale their scent; of sugary sweet peaches; of crunchy pears; of blood-red watermelons; or even figs that you pick from the tree and gently peel with your fingers...
Muriel turns to me. "Here we are!" she says, "these are the colors of summer”.
Over the course of a few days, the dominant color of the surrounding hills has shifted from green to yellow. Little by little, the fields are harvested, taking on the color of straw. The meadows turn a brighter color, as the herds of sheep or cows graze on them and as the summer heat settles.
In the spring, people walk slowly along the sides of the roads that run across the fields. Their eyes are fixed on the ground; one would think that they had lost something in the bushes. Suddenly they stop. Their hands dive into the tall grass to pick something up, before adding it to a curious bouquet without flowers. A bouquet of wild asparagus!
We also walk through the olive groves in search of their fine green stems which shoot delicately through the spring air. Each discovery fills us with simple and spontaneous joy. Like that of the children who run through the garden to find chocolate eggs, on Easter. Sometimes we also spontaneously shout “over here, over here!”. Then, we proudly wave the asparagus bouquet, which grows little by little in our hands.
We were expecting them. We were worried about not seeing them again. The swallows have come back.
Like last year, they nest under the awning of the balcony of the room which overlooks the plain of the river. Every morning, we visit them, tilting our heads from the corner of the window, trying not to frighten them. We see them, they see can us, but they continue their back and forth as if nothing had happened.
The arrival of spring is always a time of great happiness. Even the farmers who have lived through countless springs stop for a moment, to contemplate the awakening of nature.
As soon as you open the windows, after a chilly night, an air of promise floats over the countryside. The joy you feel comes from a feeling where strength and lightness are curiously mixed. Everything seems so fragile yet and yet already so strong.
Like all those who were not born in the Italian countryside, I initially only knew of Italian landscapes through painters. For me, it was the “Galerie des Italiens” at the Louvre, before discovering the Academy of Venice, the Vatican Museum or the Uffizi of Florence…
A year is coming to an end. As another one begins, the first narcissus start to bloom. In February, the almond trees will be covered in delicate, white flowers; then, in March, it will be the wild pear trees, which can then be grafted with other varieties of pears...
As surprising as it may seem, bitterness is one of the taste qualities of olive oil. At first glance, bitter flavours tend to be associated with what we want to discard. Young children reject bitter-tasting foods, preferring sweeter things. Even animals tend to stay away from plants with bitter flavors.
“We have to start picking the olives. Without delay.” said Andrea, our agronomist, one day after having visited our olive groves.
We all feel a little excited. Of course, we had been waiting for this moment for several weeks. We had prepared the olive groves: trimmed the grass and removed the branches at the bottom of the trees to be able to spread the nets correctly. Nevertheless, we were impatiently looking forward to this moment.
The tradition of the Palio is alive in Tuscany, not only in Siena but also in many medieval villages. The Palio of Campagnatico, a few kilometers away from Villa Ambretta, is held every year in September along the thousand-year-old walls.
Behind the folklore of the race in which several riders compete, each representing a district of the city, there is the life of the Contrada. Originally, the Contrada was a neighborhood that had to provide and maintain a company of soldiers for the defense of the city. Each Contrada had its coat of arms, its colours, its costumes, its symbol, its hymn and a place where the members met.
"Listen to the silence", says Michael.
As we lean against the railing of the terrace of the Villa Ombrone, our eyes are lost in the vast panorama illuminated by the setting sun. The eyes follow the green meanders of the trees that run along the river, then get lost in the multicolored puzzle of the fields, and then follow the rows of olive groves that go up the already blue hills.
"This silence" he says again.
Summer in Tuscany comes with long, warm days that surround the Villa Ambretta in a soft slumber.
From the early hours of the morning, the blinds open onto a strong sun that no cloud in the blue sky will be able to hide. In the shade, the terrace smells of coffee and dry, hot grass. Another hot summer day; soon, the morning birdsongs will be replaced by the repetitive chirping of the cicadas.
When people see Tuscany for the first time, they are immediately struck by the beauty of the landscape, which has been sculpted by its inhabitants for centuries.
Then, as they get to know the region, the diversity of the lines becomes more apparent. The empty and colour-changing slopes of the San Gimignano region, the orderly Chianti vines, the soft, bronze-coloured hills of the Senese, the cypress alleys of the Val d'Orcia, and the pines along the coast are only some examples of this Tuscan diversity.
Spring tends to creep up on city dwellers from Northern Europe. One day, they notice an avenue whose trees are suddenly covered in leaves. The next day, the prunus trees on the squares are wrapped up in pink flowers. As they leave the city, they start to see small colourful spring flowers sprinkled on the hills.
At the beginning of May, sitting at the terrace of a cafe, it hits them – spring is here, in all its might, like the earthy rhythms of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
The word "Tuscany" immediately makes people think of sunny fields, with lined-up cypress trees contrasting against the blue skies, soft green hills, sometimes yellow after the harvest, and beautiful beaches surrounded by elegant pine trees.
All of this is, however, only made possible thanks to the rain.
As the fear of nightly frosts fades, the olive fields start buzzing with people, equipped with pruning shears and saws. Ladders appear on the trees. Tractors gather twigs and branches in a pile. Here and there, fires are lit up, and their smoke rises towards the sky. It is time to trim the olive trees.
But why do we need to trim the trees?
The months of January and February are the coldest season on the coastal side of Tuscany. It is, however, a relatively pleasant cold, as it is often dry and comes with bright blue skies. During cloudless nights, the thermometer often goes below zero - but during the day, it can reach about 15 degrees.
Frost is dangerous for the olives; temperatures below -5 to -10 are usually a threat to the harvest, depending on the variety of olive trees. But low temperatures, especially during the night, remain important for the farming of olive trees and the production of a high quality olive oil.
Living in Maremma, at the Villa Ambretta, allows us to enjoy the beauty of everyday events and things – this blog seeks to share this renewed joy with you.