In the Countryside

Entry to Acqufregola

Back of the house at Acqufregola

In the summer, Cristina and Luca live in their house, Acquafregola, in the Vallombrosa forest.  With winter coming, they move back to Paterno, a 20-minute drive down the mountain. They will return daily to feed the feral cats and fill jugs with fresh drinking water from the spring.  

I believe this water has medicinal properties and is one of the reasons Cristina’s babo, Antonio, lived well for 101 years.

It certainly quenches my thirst. Every morning I crave this water instead of coffee or tea.

Feral cats enjoying a meal

For the past few days, we have foraged for mushrooms and chestnuts. Some mushrooms we do not pick because Cristina is unsure about their toxicity, but we find many deemed safe. They are soon transformed into a delicate soup with toasted bread and olive oil.

Mushrooms on the dashboard

I roast some butternut squash that I will use the leftovers to make a kind of pumpkin pie. It’s a new taste for the Italians, something they have heard of in American movies but never tasted. They like the spiciness of the cinnamon and nutmeg. I’m not overly impressed with using butternut squash; I would have preferred a can of pumpkin puree, but we are many miles from Vivi Market, the only foreign food shop that boasts an American section in the center of Florence.

My attempt at squash pie

Besides the colony of feral cats, Cristina and Luca have three sister cats who live in their winter home. Emma the black Labrador, patrols the property, on the lookout for food as labs are oft to do. She is a gentle giant whom I gladly tend to when asked.

On our walks, I meet many Italians who help me practice my language skills. A dog is an instant conversation starter as we all know.

Emma is on the lookout

The cat sisters- Rita, Minnie and Minou

The family requested an apple pie for Cristina’s birthday celebration on Sunday. I hope I’m up for it and don’t make brutta figura! (a fool of oneself)

Today we began the olive harvest, an event which is one of the reasons for my trip. I haven’t picked olives since before the pandemic. I pray I’m still able to participate, now that I’m 70 years old.

See my blog post here if you want to know more about the olive harvest:

Olives ready to be moved to cassettes (plastic bins) and then taken to the frontoio (community press)

Tomorrow is the second day of the harvest and though I’m tired, I feel strong and renewed after working outside all day. The energy from the trees rejuvenates me.

I’m ready, though I did tumble down a slope when I slipped on the nets.

I landed softly as a bird and relatively pain-free, only my pride was hurt.

But I’m proud to still be able to work in the fields even if I am not as nimble as I once was.

Cristina is sorting through the olives, removing branches and some of the leaves

My next post will probably feature a trip to the frontoio, the olive press where I will watch the oil being extracted and maybe a few photos from Cristina’s birthday festa!

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