I’m not quite sure how to start, but I have these images that continue to float through my mind as I think through my experience in Italy.
I can still feel my swollen fingers after a day’s work in the hard-pack, clay soil that makes up the entirety of the Italian landscape. I can still feel the excitement of seeing “spinacio” and “ravenello” seeds show their first new leaves. And the nervousness in anticipation of a newborn goat kid, listening to the wails of the mama as she pushed, and making sure the “capretti” safely took their first breath of fresh Tuscan air. But there is so much more.
When I first arrived, I wasn’t sure I actually liked Italy or Italians. At the train station in Torino, there were a lot of high heels, furry-collared coats, and wafts of cologne and perfume.
It’s a little difficult to write now about what I was experiencing so deeply in the moment. When someone asks me “How was your trip?” of course I respond, “It was great! It was one of the best things I’ve done for my self in a long time.” How could I say otherwise? I really did have a wonderful time, and I wouldn’t have chosen another place to spend 2 months out of my New England winter. Italy. Italia. It was actually a hard choice to make—I felt it was too luxurious of a trip to make. Even to make the 13-hour flight, when there are times I often don’t leave the farm for maybe 2 weeks at a time. The first weekend I was back in town, I had to take a trip to southern NH for a meeting. It made me think about how big our country is (in comparison to Italy), and how small the state of NH is. It took me 2 hours by car to get down to the Monadnock region. When I was in Italy, I had no other choice but to travel by train or bus. Many people traveled by train—it was easy. Even the smallest of towns had a station; perhaps the train did not run as frequently, but there was always the option. On my drive back up long I-89, I thought of how nice it would be to be on a train so I could read or write and reflect on the meeting I had just attended, or catch up on sleep, or simply stare out the window at the landscape. I wouldn’t have to drive. Certainly, Italians have lots of cars, and they have major highways, and they have to drive lots of places too. But public transportation is simply more accessible.
It has been interesting to ponder the smallness of a country in light of how huge the United States is. While many cultural aspects are the same as one travels through Italy, as I moved from region to region (Piemonte, Toscana, Liguria), there were slight local distinctions that made each town and city its own. When I was in little Murazzano in Piemonte, one of the other farm workers was originally from Tuscany, and Mario the owner of the farm and a magnificent cheese maker was originally from southern Italy. They spoke of differences in Italian dialect, but the main difference was always the cuisine. You eat fish on Christmas in the south, but you eat Panettone (a sweet, eggy cake) everywhere. You eat biscotti dipped in a kind port wine in Tuscany, and anchioves soaked in olive oil everywhere (but maybe more lemon in Liguria and more rosemary in Tuscany).
This is just a start as I reflect on my time away.
I’m glad to back at D Acres of New Hampshire. We have a lot of work to get done here and I’m more refreshed to be part of making it happen.