I was on my fourth visit to Stia in the Casentino, southeastern Tuscany, when Michelle Logue published her blog on our Slow Travel Tours website (https://slowtraveltours.com/blog/an-italian-pilgrimage/). It set me thinking afresh about the question: why travel?
I needed to tie up a few loose ends for my new Tastes & Textiles: Woad & Wool tour, part of which takes place in the Casentino, southeast Tuscany.
For the first time I felt comfortable in the place. I could relax and enjoy being there. I had a mental map of the area and didn’t have to slavishly follow Google’s directions, which always send you by the quickest route, not necessarily the most picturesque.
There were a few people I had met on my previous visits who welcomed me back as a friend. They had suggestions of who else I should meet to add to my list of producers, and ultimately friends.
I’d been wanting to meet Elisa Bellugi, a handweaver now in her 90s. But when I contacted her nephew Luca he told me she’d passed away in February. Although I’d missed her, Luca kindly showed me the studio where she worked and a collection of her clothing and other pieces.
I met Claudio Grisolini of Tessilnova on my second visit to Stia, but mysteriously all my photos of him had disappeared. Second time lucky.
Next door is the Museum of the Art of Wool. It was my third visit to the Museum, but far from being bored, I found I could concentrate more on the details.
The Museum is Angela Giordano’s kingdom. She invited me to lunch, but her kitchen flooded that morning and we went out instead.
I had chosen the dates of my visit to coincide with the dates of the tour next year from 18 to 28 May. For the first time I walked up behind the Castello di Porciano where we’ll be staying on the tour, and below in Stia lingered by the Torrente Staggia marvelling at the force of the water that used to run the colossal machines in the woollen mill.
On my second visit I had spent ten minutes at the Monastery of Camaldoli, founded by the Benedictine San Romualdo in 1012. This time I dedicated four fascinating hours to it and the restaurant across the road.
You can only eat two Italian meals (at most) per day, and that’s pushing it! This time I could sample a few more restaurants.
I hate taking the autostrada which is useful only as a way of getting from A to B as fast as possible. At the end of my stay, I allowed myself the luxury of taking the back roads from Stia to Londa and on through the Mugello. From Stia the road runs next to the Arno River heading toward its source. Federica at the Castello had recommended that I stop at a water mill. I was sniffy. It’s no longer functioning as a mill, whereas we have four working water mills in the Garfagnana. Who wants to go look at dead machinery. But as I was passing anyway…
I got home with a long list of people and places I want to return to. Travel helps me see the world with new eyes, giving me the capacity to understand other people, other ways of life and myself better. It’s difficult to dig deep if you’re always going somewhere new. The more I travel to the same place, the more fulfilling the journey. I’m going back. I hope you’ll be with me.
|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.