Some twenty years ago, I joined a group of Italophiles from the California Bay Area and we bought an ancient ruin, a casa colonica farmhouse on the border of Tuscany and Umbria, halfway between Rome and Florence, overlooking one of the most beautiful valleys in Italy, the Val di Niccone. It was the brilliant idea of our friend Katharine who eventually oversaw the restoration of our dream. My life was in transition, so I decided to move over to Italy to help out, stayed on and have never left.
What holds me here? Certainly the beauty of the place, so much like the Napa Valley of my childhood fifty years ago, with its well-tended fields and small villages, the vineyards in the foothills and the forest rising up behind them. Unlike Napa Valley, the Niccone Valley has castles, several of them.
I love the clean air and the quiet, but also the sounds of the countryside as the seasons unfold. The breeze provides the background for spring birdsong and unfamiliar calls from forest creatures, in summer there are farm sounds from tractors and barnyard animals, and the fall colors herald the harvest and the hunt. And then, before you know it, winter has brought a light snowfall and parents and children are outside, delighting in snowball fights.
Those families are what I love most: my neighbors who supply me with fresh eggs and with whom I share gossip and a glass of wine on a warm summer's evening, and all the good people who make my life run smoothly and deliciously here - the butcher, the baker and yes, the candle maker, my mechanic Luigi, the fruit and vegetable man, the hardware store guy, the stone masons, Rita who sells me plants, Chiara and Marco at our local trattoria, and many more.
And so to them, and to my truffle friends the Bianconis, and to the talented craftspeople and food artisans I have come to know here, whose traditions and way of life I hope will endure far into the future, I dedicate this website.
But there is much more in central Italy to appreciate, with its rich history dating back to the Etruscans and even further. St. Francis, Italy's favorite saint, was born here as well as many of the great painters of the Renaissance, including Michelangelo, Piero della Francesca and Perugino. The hill towns are full of important medieval buildings and art, there are museums dedicated to archeology, to herbs, to ceramics, to olive oil and wine. There are formal gardens and simple kitchen gardens, and there is a steady stream of colorful festivals and food and wine sagras throughout the year.
And beyond the valley. . . there is the rest of Italy!
I hope you will join me one day for a visit to this extraordinary place.