Summer in Anghiari

Summer has arrived and it is hot. I’ve never been here in summer before so this is a new experience for me. The deciduous greens are greener and denser, and, while this means that the views from walks in the hills are more obscured than they are in spring, I’ve been grateful of the shade of oak and chestnut woods. In the last few days it has become too hot to even do these walks. There is a lot of talk about climate change – only a couple of weeks ago winter had returned. ‘What happened to spring?’ people ask.

Yesterday, in the Florence pages of La Repubblica, there was a special section on the measures being taken in Tuscany to combat climate change, with particular emphasis on farming practices, care of the soil and water management. There is a push to return to traditional agricultural methods with schools being established to teach these. Interestingly, these methods have been preserved to a considerable extent with only 11% of agriculture in Tuscany being intensive. Experts say that even this will have to decrease for agriculture to become sustainable, and that there needs to be an increase in the agricultural workforce.

I’ve been watching all the activity that has been going on on the farms and in the kitchen gardens with the arrival of summer. There are tractors everywhere – on the roads, in the fields. Hay is being made in both the Tiber and Sovara valleys, and fields are dotted with round bales. New crops are being planted. Notwithstanding all the machines about, quite a lot of even largish fields are being tended and planted by hand. At the organic farm, the field of wild poppies, chamomile and artichokes that I saw in spring has been replanted with summer greens. The first local peaches of the season had arrived in their shop when I was in there last week. Not from their farm, but, he said, approvingly, ‘from a nearby contadino’ (‘farmer’, but difficult to translate given the connotations of ‘peasant’). Almost everything I eat here is locally produced.

Outdoor concerts have begun. After dinner a couple of nights ago, some friends and I wandered up to the Piazza del Popolo, which was packed. Children from the music school had been performing and now it was the adults from the philharmonic society.

Preparations have begun for the annual palio on the 29th June, a major event celebrating the battle of Anghiari, in which people in costumes on horseback or on foot race up the hill from the site of the battle. Flags are draped over the walls and hanging from windows throughout the town. I leave the following day.

Farewells have begun. I even got hugs and ‘it’s been 20 years … see you next year’ from the people in the Avis office at Arezzo when I returned the car on Friday.

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