After breakfast, we loaded into our charter bus and took a short trip to a local market that sold fresh and aged cheeses (made on site) as well as a selection of meats, olives and cold drinks. We headed to the Casa d’Erci, a museum devoted to the history of agricultural practices that have existed in the area since the feudal ages.
Because the road to the museum was narrow, we took a leisurely 30-minute walk along a winding path, past fields, vineyards, gardens and woods.
We were met by Cristina (our guide at the Knife Museum) and the volunteer staff at the Casa d’Erci. We received a brief introduction to the organization, then set to work making bread in the traditional manner. Tuscan bread is infamous for lacking one important ingredient: salt. One story goes that this peculiarity of the Tuscan bread goes back to the 12th century, when the Pisans controlled the salt trade to damage their worst enemies, the Florentines. This made it too expensive for the humble people of the region to buy salt.
Each student was given a portion of the dough and kneaded it into distinct shapes. Romano and Luigi provided instruction and encouragement.
While the bread rose, we went for a tour of the museum that contains many interesting exhibits and artifacts related to agricultural practices and artisanal trades.
We then had a picnic outside in a beautiful setting. As we left, we took our individual bread loaves with us.
Casa d’Erci is a must see if you are in the Mugello. We will definitely return next year.
Back down to the bus and on the road to our second stop of the day, Castello Il Trebbio. This was the summer home of the second-most famous and powerful family in Florence, the Pazzi. The Castello had fallen into ruin and disrepair until purchased in the 1960′s by a couple who wanted to have a home in Tuscany (she was Austrian, he was Italian.) It is now a wine-producer and we were given a tour of the entire property.
The contrast between our two stops today illuminated the Tuscan countryside through the lens of the poor and that of the very wealthy.
A great field trip. We returned home (as we now think of Florence) incredibly happy and somewhat tired…
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