After the dramatic events of the previous evening, it was a beautiful counterpoint to board our charter bus the next morning for a trip to the countryside.

Our first stop: Pagliaccio. This is a working farm on the Via del Latte (yes, that would be the Milk Route) in which sheep, cows and goats are milked to produce some of the most incredibly dairy products (milk, cheeses — pecorino romano, ricotta, parmesano reggiano — and even gelato!) We picked up prosciutto, salami, and several kinds of cheeses for a picnic lunch later in the day.) There, we also connected with Matilde who would serve as our translator at the Casa d’Erci (Museum of the Peasant).

Since our last visit, the Casa d’Erci has added a new “laboratory” — a brand new structure for baking bread in a traditional wood-fired oven. Luciano, one of the volunteers who staffs the museum, explained the concepts of share-cropping ( a practice in which families worked for the landowner and, in theory, could keep half of the materials that they produced (with the other half going to the landowner).   It was a difficult life and every single thing they needed had to be made and repaired by hand, with whatever materials were available.

We then into the “lab” to form loaves of bread and set them aside to rise. They would later be put in the oven as we made our way up the hill to the museum. A house (originally that of the landowner) is now filled with all of the articles of an earlier time — everything from kitchen utensils to farm equipment, wine-making accoutrements to anvils for forging iron.

We then picnicked on fresh focaccia and the meats and cheeses we had purchased earlier. Luciano gave out pieces of bread to feed the farm animals (goats, sheep, etc.).

Back to Florence, which now seems more like home than ever!