I’m sitting outside our apartment at Podere Castellaccia, the evening sun still quite high as the maestrale warms the porch.
Our apartment is Grecale, the colder, northeast wind. Castellaccia is a fattoria and azienda vinicola; their olive oil is superb and at 5 Euro a bottle from the cellar door, why would you drink sangiovese from anywhere else?
Alfonzo’s father, Sinibalda, founded the establishment, and now Alfonzo’s daughter Barbara runs the agriturismo business (with a little tax help from the Italian government). Alfonzo speaks no English but we converse nonetheless, and he gives Joshua tractor rides around the farm. I only remember Sinibalda’s name because it is memorialized on the grappa riserva, a bottle of which I bring home each time we visit—along with all the oil and wine we think we can fit in our 23 kg each of checked baggage.
Wine, in my book, is a minor miracle. Fermented fruit happens by chance and there are all sorts of wonderful drinks you can make at home, using apples or elder flowers or dandelions or anything else growing in English hedgerows, but wine, proper wine is on a level beyond. Little wonder that Jesus chose it for his first (recorded) public demonstration, at the wedding in Cana.
Speaking of miracles, we’re actually here in Italy.
Back in May, things were looking a bit dicey. For the first time in our lives we’d been organized and booked the flights stupidly early, back in January or February; and then there was Covid. BA canceled our outbound booking, but not the return—and Jenny called them up and got us switched to the early Pisa flight instead. And we waited for 2 long, long months until finally we were on the way to Heathrow at oh dark hundred.
The early start meant we were able to visit Lucca for lunch, and still reach Grosseto with time enough for essential groceries, and a swim in the pool.
We love this place. We always talk about going to other places, but every 2 or 3 years we find ourselves asking if Barbara has room this year, and booking a flight and hiring a car. There are beaches 20 minutes away, a crystal clear mountain stream with trout as big as your arm and their fry that come nibble your toes an hour’s drive north, the pool, the weather… and I may already have mentioned the oil and the wine.
Last night I was able to show Joshua comet Neowise, and he’s written about it in his diary today. He also found a nocturnal toad, and we listened to il pipistrello thanks to our ‘Batseeker’.
But what this post is really about is assiolo, or assiuolo as he’s known locally, or Scops Owl in less romantic tongues.
At his largest, assiuolo is no larger than a blackbird, according to Italian Wikipedia. What’s distinctive is his call, “djü” or”chiù”; again, in our less romantic language we say ‘boop’. Every night we hear him from the pine trees, regular as clockwork after half nine, more often than not answered by his lady singing back, half a tone higher.
Assiuolo is Tuscany to us, and we are very happy, very blessed indeed to be here.