~ Jim's reflections ~
Last May, during my investigations for our Aromas of Italy tour, I experienced some wonderful off-the-beaten-path adventures including a visit to a beautiful unspoilt village, deep in the foothills of the Apennine ranges.
I was first taken to a restored 12th century water mill in the nearby forest which was a labour of love for 3 families and now fully operational. My hosts proudly showed all the workings from the water turbine to the mill room and the authenticity of their work and attention to detail was stunning. My father was an antique dealer and French polisher so I have a great love and appreciation of fine craftsmanship.
I was shown the mill in full production making hazelnut flour which was fascinating, however, it was as I stood alone looking at the forest, smelling the resinous air, listening to the rumbling of wooden gears and the rush of flowing water that I found myself transported in time and realized that I was experiencing a scene just as it had been in the 12 century.
That evening I found myself travelling with the mayor up into the hills above the town on a winding road that after a while turned from black-top to gravel. We continued on through the dark night with not a single light to be seen except our headlights and the star lit sky.
Finally after 30 or 40 minutes we turned a bend and down in the valley way below us, I saw the lights of what appeared to be a solitary house.
When we arrived with great smiles from the mayor and my wonderful host in Emilia Romagnia, Atilio, I was informed that we were in fact at a hunting lodge and that I was in for a great treat. My, Oh My, what a night it most certainly was!
The lodge was full of country folk from all the areas around and we joined in for a meal that will go down as one of my most memorable ever, with plate after plate of fresh home made pastas, fresh mushroom risotto, venison steaks cooked on the open hearth by a rascally looking chap in a chef's hat, all marinaded in laughter and smiling faces and washed down with the wonderful local vino rosso.
For the final act to the evening, we headed our gladdened hearts for home under the kind of starry sky you only see way out in the countryside, until, half way back we stopped, and to my delight, there before us were fields full of fire flies twinkling back at the night sky. Bellissimo!