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.


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