Sunday morning began a three-day field trip that took us slightly north of Florence but seemed to transport us much farther, both temporally and geographically!

We boarded our charter bus in the morning and began the trip to Scarperia in the heart of the Mugello. Our goal is to participate in the festivities around “Diotto” — the celebration of the town’s birth as a point of protection on the road between Florence and Bologna. This was to be the 703rd festival and we were determined to take part.

On the way to Scarperia, we stopped at the Villa Medici in Pratolino — an immense property which once contained multiple fountains, water spectacles and grottos. The centerpiece of the estate is the Giant, an enormous sculpture by Buontalenti of a giant emerging from the rocks. We spent a good deal of time exploring the grounds before getting back on the bus for Scarperia.

Sunday in Scarperia was the medieval town — the streets are covered with straw and artisans set up their booths to demonstrate and sell traditional products (books, wood carvings, metalwork, foods, etc.) This medieval ambiance is further enhanced by the what seemed to be the entire populace of Scarperia dressed in authentic period costumes. Not just your typical “townspeople”, but also the more “colorful folk” — lepers, witches, prostitutes and fools. The concession stand produced spiedini (skewers) of chigale (wild boar) sausage, porcini soup, farro salad — all delicious.

We spent the afternoon there, then boarded our bus for the trip to Casale di Villore which was to be our lodging for the next two nights. More about the Casale in the next post.

On our way, we stopped at the market at Forteto to pick up food supplies for our stay in Villore. This is a farmers’ cooperative (20+ families) that offers the best of local produce — vegetables, fruits, cheese, meat, etc. With a few meal plans in mind, we checked out with three full shopping carts.

On a windy road, midway up the Tuscan hills, is Casale di Villore. We unloaded, got situated in our rooms, then began the preparation of dinner. Baked penne with some of the freshest ricotta known to mankind, focaccia, salad and cookies for dessert. A bonfire and bed. Out here, the nights are incredibly quiet and there is no ambient light to distract you from a quality sleep!