After six weeks of temples, motorbikes, sticky rice, tiny islands, night buses, and fish sauce — I find myself in a very different part of the world: Tuscany.
I am currently a farm intern at Spannocchia, an agrotourism specializing in salumi, wine, and olive oil. Along with 7 other hard-working, food-loving twenty-somethings, I share this beautiful 12th century estate with visitors from around the world. Part villa, part organic farm, Spannocchia integrates historic preservation with cultural and ecological enrichment and education.
The last few weeks, I’ve spent my working hours in the vineyards preparing the grapes for la vendemmia, the harvest, which is now in full swing. We harvest the white grapes first, saving the looser bunches to hang for vin santo, Spannocchia’s dessert wine. After three months of drying, they release a sweet, pruney flavor. We then vinify the remainder of the white grapes for vino bianco, separating the juice from the skins and seeds, which are saved for grappa. Last, we harvest the red grapes, allotting a portion for rossato, and a portion for vino rosso. Come late October, we’ll begin the olive harvest and learn how to make Spannocchia’s dark green olive oil, which frankly, I could eat with a spoon.
In addition to the harvest, I have other odd jobs like chopping and stacking wood, making lunches for my fellow interns out of leftovers and whatever’s in abundance in the garden (see: Tupp Ups), and practicing Italian with the chefs who prepare our beautiful, farm-fresh dinners every night.
Dinners are traditional and Tuscan, each beginning with pasta and ending with a dry cookie or sweet cake. On Wednesdays, we fire up the pizza oven at 3pm in preparation for a night of non-stop pizza and digestivo. From grilled zucchini to thin slices of pepper-crusted lardo, bowls of toppings from the farm line the pizza oven as Riccio, the butcher, instructs us on how to properly top our pizzas the Italian way.
When not out in the fields, I spend time drinking rich espresso with a cat on my lap, watching the fog roll in over the hills, discovering new trails amidst the 1,100 acres at Spannocchia, playing with piglets, harvesting figs, walnuts, and quince from the overgrown orchard just outside our house, and exploring the many hill towns of Tuscany.
Anna even swung by for a week to see what the fuss was about. We ate and drank like a couple of medieval queens.