Sunday, July 1, 2012
I know, I know . Promises, empty promises. I have been too buy living the "vita della campagna" I suppose.
Well back to Gravagna. My little village lies up in a cluster of Apenine mountains near a historic mountain pass. The springs up here feed the Fiume Magra (the Thin River ) that runs down into the Val D'antenna to Pontremoli. To the southeast lies the heart of Tuscany with its villas and farms, vineyards and sunflowers. Due south is the Mediterranean sea. To the north, literally just over the mountain is Emiglia Romania and you are out of Tuscany. We are literally sitting at the northernmost tip of Tuscany's tiny finger,
Coming from Pontremoli means a long twisting ride up the valley to the village of Molinello at which point you go off the small road onto a tiny one. Two little Italian cars barely fit abreast and often there is an intricate tango between two drivers who chance to meet going in opposite directions. The road curves back on itselve following the mountain all the way up until around the bend you go and you are in Gravagna.
Here you will find few of the historic Tuscan plants. There are few olive trees and grape vines and sunflowers. Instead there is an abundance of chestnut and hazelnut trees. The culture is a mountain one. Cheese, sheep, goats, mushrooms, and chestnuts are the stuff of life. If you pass Gravagna and make it all the way to the mountain pass (Passo della Cisa) you will even find alpine architecture reminiscent of Switzerland.
There are about 25-30 people who live in the village year round. In the summer the number swells to maybe 75 or so. Most of the people are old and retired on pensione. This does not mean they do not work, however. By eight in the morning almost everyone is running about caring for an animal or out in their garden, sweeping their terazzo or watering their flower pots. Which brings me to the photo. These are my cousin Louisa's flowers. Louisa never married or had children but lived her life caring for her parents as they aged. She is now getting close to seventy herself but she cares so lovingly for a wide variety of growing things. Her pot garden speaks of her patience and loving hand.
I think one of the things that is so important about gardening in pots this way is that the flowers become something that is touchable and within reach. Much more intimate and inviting that a flower bed floating off far away in an ocean of lawn.
Hopefully less of an interlude next time. . . . Also any Gravagnot who read this please correct any errors in Geography and names if you notice them- :)