Sunday, February 6
Man, the family that runs the agriturismo here really flies in the face of the Italian stereotype of taking life slowly, savoring every moment, enjoying the sweetness of doing nothing. These people have three jobs at one time: renting rooms to guests, farming the flowers and running a restaurant. During the week I was waiting for the wireless to get fixed, I would sneak (with permission) into Luca’s office to use his computer while he was meeting with clients. While I checked my mail, I could overhear him engaged in detailed discussions about what foods the clients wanted at events that were coming up. The discussions continued after I left.
On Wednesday afternoon, Luca’s mother and sister Roberta spent a long time in the kitchen, which is one door away from our apartamento, cooking, frying and baking. Luca and a variety of helpers moved tables and chairs into the smaller of three covered piazzas, and then between 8 and 9 p.m., the traditional time for an Italian dinner, diners came drifting in. It lasted until around midnight. Then last night, another catered meal took place in one of the large piazzas, this one about the size of a basketball court. It went on until at least 1 a.m., probably longer. This morning, Lucy and I went out to look at the piazza. We thought we would find the remains of last night waiting for a clean-up crew today, but instead it looks the same as it had earlier in the week. Not only has it been cleaned but tables and chairs are gone, put back in storage. How long did that take?
It is very quiet here now, as the farm workers have the day off. During the week, we have seen Luca’s father, Enzo, cutting branches into firewood and transporting various items around on puttering tractor. He seems to be in charge of the flower farm, while Luca and Roberta manage the rooms and catering, Enzo’s wife, whom we only know so far as Senora Seghieri (married women in Italy retain their maiden names), is the head cook. Without the workers around, we feel comfortable to take a look at the flower farm. It is impressive in its size and the amount of greenhouses it contains—a half dozen at least, each about the size of a soccer field. The sides are composed of translucent plastic and are entirely closed in for the winter, with doors closed, so we can only peak in a few places. We see a lot of fuzzy green plants, but no flowers now. In fact, we find out by reading the web site that not all of the plants are grown for their flowers but many are bushes raised to be transplanted.
We go back to our room, marveling at the amount of work it must take to maintain all this, and decide to see if we can find more details on the agriturismo web site.
The Casolare dei Fiori is run by the Pasquinelli family, the owner of the homonymous farm. The Pasquinelli family take care of the cultivation of flowers, which has been one of the most important business in the Valdinievole area for two generations. The Pasquinelli farm was established in 1954 by Enzo, the father, who started to cultivate only carnations in summertime. After building some heated nurseries it was possible to cultivate flowers throughout the year. Year after year cultivated products have increased, so do the arable lands and the available nurseries. Now the firm is cultivating about 40 different species: flowers, ornamental plants, decorative branches, and potted plants, spread over a total surface of 20,000 square meters of nurseries and 10,000 square meters outdoor.
That translates into about five acres of plants, about the size of five football fields. We know that to qualify as an agriturismo, the proprietors must maintain a working farm that sells its products. During our other travels here, we have seen some agriturismi that seem to barely qualify, where the accommodations are nice but the farms themselves have grown meager, and the so-called farmers live in the city and only work the land part time, but here the farm is thriving. I can only imagine what it must be like in the summer. Perhaps everyone in the Pasquinelli family skipped school (to help with the harvest, no doubt) during the lesson on dolce far niente.
We skip going to church our first week because of uncertainty about where to go. We had thought about going to a Wednesday evening service of an international church in Firenze, but now that we look at the train schedule and prices, we think that’s out. It will take more than an hour each way, cost us $20 round trip for two, and, worst of all, the train doesn’t stop at our little city at night. We would have to get off at Pescia, about four miles away, and then figure out how to get home at 11 p.m. Maybe bus or taxi? No, this is just too much already. We could try one of the several local Catholic churches, which would have the advantage of possibly meeting some of the locals, but we don’t feel we would get the spiritual nourishment we are seeking. So we will look up the address of the Valdese church in Lucca and will try it again next Sunday. We went there during spring break two years ago and found it reminded us of a Methodist church service in America from the sixties or seventies: old hymnals, a traditional agenda and sermon, with the congregation mostly on the older side. And of course we had trouble understanding the all-Italian service, but we are here to learn the language, so the more exposure we get, the better.