10 years ago, autumn

Ten years ago I spent 10 days of autumn (September-October) in northern Italy. Here are some photos.


That’s our front door in the background, part of the converted stable block. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Home base for our 5 days in Tuscany was the delightful Ancora del Chianti B&B run by Laura, while her husband Filippo tends an organic olive plantation and vineyard (his organic red wine wasn’t half bad!).


Growing under some of the old olive trees on the property were these crocus-like bulbs, Sternbergia lutea. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Sternbergia lutea are found all the way from the western Mediterranean and North Africa to Takijistan and are one of the world’s oldest of cultivated flowers. Some historians believe they are the “Lily of the Field” referred to in the Bible. Read more about all the Sternbergia bulbs here.


Some of the surrounding vineyards. Photo: Sandra Simpson


The nearest town is Greve – here’s a selection of seasonal produce, including chestnuts, fungi and prickly pear (bottom left). Photo: Sandra Simpson

Prickly pears, the fruit of a cactus, are called “fichi d’India” or Indian figs – the story goes that when the navigationally challenged Christopher Columbus first saw the strange fruit, he thought he’d arrived in India. Read more here.

tuscany - Villa Vignamaggio

Villa Vignamaggio, half-way between Siena and Florence. Photo: Sandra Simpson


Chestnut trees in Siena. Photo: Sandra Simpson

florence-Villa di Castello

The gardens of Villa di Castello, near Florence. The process of moving the famous potted citrus trees into the orangery for winter was just about to begin. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Villa di Castello is now just about on the outskirts of Florence but when it was built was the “country” residence of Cosimo de Medici (1519-74), the first Duke of Tuscany. The gardens are said to have had a major impact on the design of French formal gardens. Read more here.

florence-villa di castello2

Villa di Castello.

San Gimignano - Copy

The main square of San Gimigano, a Tuscan hill town whose name is well-known to wine drinkers, but is equally famous for its medieval architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Seasonal food, by the way, was excellent – air-dried wild boar (from at least the previous year if not longer), air-dried ham (ditto), shavings of raw zucchini served with pecorino cheese and olive oil, pasta with truffle, ravioli filled with sheep’s milk cheese and walnuts and served with sage butter, ribollita soup (Tuscan bean soup, the link takes you to a River Cottage version) … and we weren’t even really trying!

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