Tuscan Tales Chapter 15 – Sausage Thief

There’s a little fat pig local to our area, and it’s delicious. Its name is ‘Cinta Senese’.  TheSenese’ part of the name stands for Siena, and you can see the first painting of it in the Palazzo Comunale in Siena, dating back to 1338. There it is, sporting a beautiful black coat and a white belt, or ‘cinta’. Hardy little thing, it clung on through the centuries, through thick and thin, and was in real danger of extinction just after World War Two. But above all it is tasty, and so farmers are breeding it again, and it is on the way up.


Cinta Senese pigs near Castellina
Cinta Senese pigs near Castellina

It is not as plentifully available to buy as the salsiccia toscana, but our butcher has it, and we have bought some as a special treat. Fabiana and her friend are coming over for supper and we want to thank her for all her help when we moved in.

It’s a lovely evening … warm on the terrace, and we tell Fabiana of our water problems. It seems we are sharing a dysfunctional borehole and the future looks bleak and unfriendly. ‘We are having an important meeting here tomorrow morning,’ I say. ‘Our neighbour Marciano is coming, and the new person who has just bought Stefan’s family’s little house above us. It is the three of us that will share this problem, and we simply have to sort it out.’

Fabiana tells us of the water diviner from Lamole. He is an old man, about 85, and so skilled at his job that French television did a documentary on him. ‘He will come to you,’ she says, ‘He won’t charge – it’s the love of his life.’

While we are chatting we hear a noise. ‘Don’t worry, it’s Cosimo’s cat!’ I say.

Later we hear it again … and turning around to the barbecue I see the most extra-ordinary looking dog. He’s light brindle, with Jack Russell legs and the low-slung body of a Bassett Hound. His face is the size of a soup plate and it is too large for his body.

The Sausage Thief
The Sausage Thief

He has a string of our precious ‘cinta senese’ sausages in his mouth and he shoots off through the old wooden gate with Liam in pursuit.  ‘Ahhhhhh!!’ shouts Liam, and the dog drops the sausages. But instead of running off, he turns in mid-flight, and, teeth bared, he goes for Liam. Liam stands his ground. ‘Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!’ Liam yells at the dog, baring his teeth. With that the dog, with his teeth still bared, slinks off.

There’s a bite or two in a sausage, which we avoid, and Liam eats …

I must learn to make coffee. The whole group has arrived for todays ‘water crises meeting’  … Marciano, Susanna, who will help us translate, us and our new neighbour, Sebastiano. They have all asked for coffee. Sebastiano beams when introduced to me. He is in love with South Africa. ‘Ah … Stellenbosch,’ he says, ‘and Pinotage’. He speaks a smattering of English, very very little, but he tells Liam we are to come and dine in his restaurant. ‘Just for you, I will close my restaurant,’ he says, ‘I will cook you a wonderful meal, my speciality, myself, for free, and you will bring the wine from South Africa.’

The meeting starts well, and finally everyone is sitting around drinking my instant coffee – except for Marciano who shakes his head mournfully and says ‘Non, mi recordo!’ (No, I remember!) This is from the last time. I try to concoct an espresso in a small cup. It looks black and dubious but I put it in front of him anyway.

I hear a noise and get up and go out onto the terrace. The strange dog is back sniffing around the barbecue. I go to the door thinking what can I lob at him so that he never returns? I see the heavy rubberised door mat and I pick it up and lob it. As it sails through the air I feel some-one at my shoulder. It’s Sebastiano! It’s his dog!

‘Oops. Scusi,’ I say, ‘I thought it was a wild dog.’ ‘Didi Didi’ he yells. Didi stops in his tracks. Strange, slanty eyes look at me. I’m with Sebastiano now, I’m brave. ‘Didi Didi’ I say, moving closer. And Didi promptly rolls on his back to be tickled. Sebastiano is devastated by the tale of the three sausages. ‘I will buy you more’ he says.

But Sebastiano’s misery doesn’t end there. As they walk up the hill past Cosimo he gets short shrift from the old man … for Didi, on the way down to his master, has bitten old Cosimo on the arm.

I try and introduce them, pointing out that Sebastiano has bought Stefan’s family’s house and so is now part of our small commune. But the old boy is clearly put out, and is barely civil to Sebastiano. He shows us the Didi’s teeth marks, shaking his head and pointing at the dog. Didi is going to be penned in …

Will Didi be penned in? With old Cosimo and Sebastiano getting off on such a bad footing will there be more bad blood? And what about me? After lobbing a very heavy mat at the precious Didi … will we ever get a restaurant closed, just for us, while the owner cooks? Clearly living in commune is far more complicated than I thought.


<<   Previous chapter  |  Next chapter  >>

Leave your details with us here, to be notified of the next chapter as soon as it is released!

[wysija_form id=”3″]


Hi - if you enjoyed this, I would REALLY appreciate if you shared it on one of the social media links - thanks! :-)

Tuscan Tales Chapter 8 – Carnevale

Mediterranean Climate: a type of climate distinguished by hot, dry, sunny summers and a winter rainy season … as is the characteristic of the Mediterranean region and also parts of California, South Africa and Chile.

What foreigner buys a house in Tuscany in mid-winter? Is there anyone out there as crazy as us? We have now stood at the window for the past three days, gazing at the rain. It seems that when it rains here, it sure rains … great buckets of water cascade down from the heavens, and oh, it all seems so familiar. Greve-in-Chianti? Cape Town? Hemispheres apart? I am beginning to think not. Then all of a sudden the clouds part, there’s a hint of blue sky above and I push open the wooden gate and look up the muddy road …

Frederico is dressing up for the parade ...
… Frederico is dressing up for the parade …

Manuela (our neighbour, and Pasquale’s wife) is outside picking rosemary. ‘It’s Carnevale in Italy,’ she says, ‘and my little grandson Frederico is dressing up for the parade in Castellina-in-Chianti. You should drive down and have a look.’

Carnivalle is all over Tuscany today – Greve, San Polo, all the little towns have had their bill boards up. We head off for Castellina-in-Chianti at about three. Cars are already starting to park on the hills surrounding the town. The high street is festooned with streamers and we enter the upper section through an enormous red curtain. Everyone who has access to a costume has put one on … anything goes …giant mice, horse’s heads and masks galore.

... it is the children who stop me in my tracks ...
… it is the children who stop me in my tracks …

But it is the children who stop me in my tracks. Italians love a festival, and Italians adore children, and the combination today is a knock-out. Wide-eyed, beautiful boys peep out from their mother’s knees, drinking it all in. They’re the tigers, the bears, the clowns and the jesters. There’s a cardinal too – a solemn seven year old in his red velvet hat with rolled rim and his ermine coat.

Then there are the girls – beautiful hooped taffeta dresses mirror pale green and blue eyes, their hair turned lovingly around grandmothers’ fingers, until it cascades down their backs in ringlets …. and if it is not natural, why, there’s a bright orange wig or two added to the fun.

... he is pulling a sort of tumbril ...
… he is pulling a sort of tumbril …

From beyond the church a small group is getting ready. They are dressed in black and white. There’s a mime, a piano accordion and a drummer. They head up the street followed by an extra-ordinary looking fellow in a skirt and bright knee socks. He is pulling a sort of tumbrel, in which there is a broken chair. I’d love to know the symbolism.

The crowd follows until they reach the piazza, forming a circle around them. The mime takes over, and a small boy of about three runs towards him. The mime waits until he is close, and then leaps into a puddle, spraying water far and wide. The small boy, soaked and aghast, turns and searches for his mother. The crowd roars with laughter. This ability to simply enjoy, this is what I love about Italians: it’s time for fiesta, seize the moment …

... the town band ... is made up of ... children ....
… the town band … is made up of … children ….

We head up to the main piazza. Another band has started up and begins its parade towards us. This must be the town band, but today it’s different, for the entire front section is made up of about 40 children, each with a drum. They beat the rhythm with the band, keeping time beautifully: little side drummers and tenor drummers. Proud parents stand and watch.

... it's all about the new generation ...
… it’s all about the new generation …

We stand together and cheer on the children: for it seems to me that whatever the symbolism of ‘Carnevale’ is in the rest of Italy, here in Castellina-in-Chianti it’s all about the new generation: a hands-on lesson in living, breathing and being Italian.





<<   Previous chapter  |  Next chapter  >>

Leave your details with us here, to be notified of the next chapter as soon as it is released!

[wysija_form id=”3″]

Hi - if you enjoyed this, I would REALLY appreciate if you shared it on one of the social media links - thanks! :-)