A Thread to Hang It On

Sapori e Saperi means ‘flavours and knowledge’, and on my tours guests enter a pleasant and gentle ‘school’ of artisan food. I’m always searching for new producers of the best of Tuscan produce. The results of my detective work are often surprising. Sometimes I go looking for cheese and I find wool.

Gemma makes pecorino with the milk of...

Gemma makes pecorino with the milk of…

...her Garfagnina Bianca sheep, part of a project to preserve the ancient breed.

…her Garfagnina Bianca sheep, part of a project to preserve the ancient breed.

Her daughter Ombretta learned to dye their wool...

Her daughter Ombretta learned to dye their wool with natural dyestuffs…

...to produce these subtle colours.

…to produce these subtle colours.

She found skilled local weavers.

She found skilled local weavers and sells their work.

More about a day on the Cavani farm.

Or it’s squashes I’m after and I come up with hemp (yes, cannabis, but not the smoking kind).

Squash display at Sagra della Zucca (squash festival)

Squash display at Sagra della Zucca (squash festival)

Romeo was at his textile stall and showed me antique hemp.

I found Romeo at his textile stall and later in his attic where he showed me antique hemp…

...which he weaves on his century-old floor-loom into...

…which he weaves on his century-old floor-loom into…

...into household linens that his wife Nada finishes.

…household linens that his wife Nada finishes.

Read more about Romeo and Nada here: Weaving a Life of Happiness

And there was the day I was sitting innocently enjoying lunch at Il Vecchio Mulino…

 

Owner Andrea is happy that I'm enjoying my lunch.

Owner Andrea is happy that I’m enjoying my lunch.

 

when the owner introduced me to two brothers who run a scarf mill where they weave silk and cashmere scarves on traditional Garfagnana floor-looms for international fashion houses. They begged me to bring my clients to see how they had rescued a dying craft and made it relevant to the modern world.

Artes weavers warping a loom.

Artes weavers warping a loom.

Handwoven cashmere scarf

Handwoven cashmere scarf

My weaver friend from Cambridge came to visit and was inspired by Stefania who rears silkworms and runs silk workshops for schoolchildren, because her grandmother and grandmother-in-law raised silkworms and she wants today’s children to know about their past.

Sapori e Saperi guests help feed Stefania's ravenous silkworms.

Sapori e Saperi guests help feed Stefania’s ravenous silkworms.

Silkworm spinning its coccoon

Silkworm spinning its coccoon

Several of my tours include a lesson with Paolo the village baker (more about Paolo) in a village that hosts a farro festival where we get to eat all the traditional dishes made with that primitive wheat (more about the festival). There on his dad’s front patio I met Teresa Bertei and her friends spinning and knitting.

Baking bread with Paolo

Baking bread with Paolo

Teresa and friends probably wishing they were helping us eat the farro.

Teresa and friends probably wishing they were helping us eat the farro.

Now Teresa teaches my guests the art of spinning with a drop spindle.

Now Teresa teaches my guests the art of spinning with a drop spindle.

Soon I had a network of textile artisans to interweave with my food producers. My guests on each tour give me more suggestions of other things they would have liked to have done if only there had been time. Finally the fabric was stretched to its limit, and I’ve added an extra day this year. After all, we still need time to relax at a cafe and enjoy a gelato.

Sitting in the sun enjoying Paolo's artisan gelato

Sitting in the sun enjoying Paolo’s artisan gelato

This element of the serendipity is a feature of Slow Travel. If you stay in one place long enough, you find all sorts of things you weren’t looking for (read more about how I research my tours), and this explains why I offer a ‘Tastes & Textiles’ tour among my culinary adventures. The next ‘Tastes & Textiles’ tours will take place from 16–24 May and 27 June–5 July. Full details at: http://www.sapori-e-saperi.com/component/content/article/2-small-group-tours/55-tastes-a-textiles. If you prefer your bread and cheese without the cloth, you can join the ‘Cheese, Bread & Honey‘ tour in June.

Wishing all of our travellers and readers a travel-scrumptious 2014!


Erica Jarman invites you on inspiring culinary tours of life behind the scenes that you won’t find in any guidebook — get to know the food artisans and craftspeople of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Liguria. Come join me and my Italian friends and dip into a lifestyle where lunch is more important than business. Find out more at Sapori e Saperi Adventures and follow Erica’s own adventures on her blog.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

 

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