We followed a narrow and winding road lined with cypress trees, oaks, and chestnuts. The hillsides were a patchwork of vineyards and olive trees. Here and there random stretches of poppies still bloomed. We passed a small stone building with green shutters and a green scooter parked in front. I started bouncing in my seat, I was so excited. “Photo opp!”
There was a man sitting on a stone wall on the side of the road, and I waved at him as I got out of the car and said “Buon giorno.” He waved back and motioned that I should join him and immediately started speaking to me in Italian. I don’t speak a lot of Italian, but I understood he lived in the building and that was his scooter. Not wanting to seem rude, I asked him, “Posso?” meaning, is it ok if I take the photos?
“Si, si. Certo.” He made it clear I should also take photos of the iris blooming on the hillside. There was a little gate in front of some stone steps with access to the iris field. I was a little shy about opening the gate (too many years living in the city, I guess?), but he kept motioning me on, waving his arms and nodding his head – vai! Go! But he was friendly and in his face, wizened with age and sun, his eyes were bright blue and sparkling.
I thought it was nice, and I was also a bit curious that he seemed quite insistent that I should photograph the flowers. I thanked him in Italian, “Sono belli. Grazie.” They’re beautiful. He told me that the area used to be known for the iris fields. They were grown for export to France where the bulbs were used to make perfume, like Chanel No.5. Now, however, there were not many fields left, and the bulbs for Chanel and other fine fragrance houses are exported from China, not Italy.
I asked him if this was his work, cultivating the iris. He said, no, he was now 73 years old, and retired. He was a waiter. He motioned for me to come inside the little stone house with the scooter in front, and showed me his photos of the iris fields in their glory days.
I would have loved to stay and talk with this man more, he was really lovely – warm and welcoming, eager to communicate. It was the kind of interaction that I remember long after the trip is over, sharing language, history, and culture in a very genuine way. Alas, my driver was waiting.
The road we took was the road to Lamole, a tiny village in Chianti. There you will find the Castello, the church of San Donato, and Ristoro di Lamole, a restaurant with a beautiful terrace and views across the valley. If you go, look for the stone building on the side of the road. If you see an older man sitting there, please find out his name and let me know. Sadly, I never asked him I was so caught up in the moment. Tell him, “Buon giorno da Penny in Texas.”
All materials Copyright Penny Sadler 2012 – 2013. All rights reserved.