Charity Keita continues her Italian summer tour amidst the green hills and vineyards of Chianti, one of Italy’s most famous wine producing areas.
To Italians a one week holiday by the beach in July or August is considered a quasi human right. During the hot summer months city dwellers move en masse to the beach, liberating the cities for the camera-wielding hordes of tourists. Up and down the coasts, sandy beaches mutate into colourful mosaics of beach towels, sun-beds and umbrellas. At lunchtime, seaside restaurants overflow with hungry people clamouring for their daily plate of pasta – waiting times can be hours long and those lucky enough to live near by, pop home for a quick three course meal. Lunch is wrapped up with an espresso and when the obligatory two hour digestion period has been observed, everyone files back to the beach to paddle about and see out the last scorching rays of the sun.
For those who find the bronzed throng of beach humanity a bit much to stomach there are alternatives: escape to the lakes, escape to the mountains or, in the case of one lucky Miss Charity Keita, escape to the gentle green hills of Chianti and wile away the days in the company of friends and many a glass of delicious local wine.
Tables laden with colourful salads have been the hallmark of my summer so far. Caprese salads made with tomatoes freshly-picked from the garden and mozzarella delivered fresh from Naples are sprinkled with roughly torn leaves of basil and drizzled in bright green local olive oil; sweet melons are draped in thin salty slices of cured ham; cold barley tabboulehs add bulk to the meal and multi-tonal green salads keep everything fresh and light. Luncheons are a long-drawn out affair that start around two and end after four. In order to maintain the fine balance between hydrated and tipsy, everyone knocks back chilled glasses of “bevanda”: local white table wine watered down with sparkling water and ice. There’s not much point in trying to get anything done before five: every shop in every town in Chianti (and much of Italy for that matter) is closed between one and four. Those who have pools can swap their siesta for an afternoon lounging session and children frolic in the shallow end, under the bleary yet watchful eyes of half drunk adults.
At around 7:30, when the sun is still in the sky but the shadows are growing long, people emerge from their slumber and head to town for an hour-long “aperitivo”: glasses of Campari or Aperol spritz accompanied by wooden boards laden in hams, salamis and cheese. When everyone is done with catching up, they head home and wishfully hope that for once dinner will be ready before 10:30 and that maybe they’ll be in bed by midnight.
The next morning the cycle begins afresh, the days blur into one another, before you know it a month has passed. Time moves quickly, autumn is behind the corner with the promise of harvests, wine picking and a year studying in Florence. Best get back to enjoying it while I can!
When in Chianti…
Head to Osteria il Papavero in Barbischio, a few kms drive from Gaiole in Chianti. Their food is a classic Tuscan fare with added light and modern touches to keep things interesting and tasty.
Head to the Riecine Winery: Sean O’Callaghan, is the director of this boutique winery that presses its organic grapes using the traditional feet pressing method. Sean will give you the full tour of the cellar and finish it off with a dedicated wine tasting. Just remember to use the spittoon!