Chapter #1

Saturnia, evening

Manciano, Saturnia
Manciano, Porta Romana Via Clodia

The boy is already asleep. Leaving the Amiata mountains behind us, we follow the path through open fields and sudden patches of dark green maquis. Suddenly, between the oaks and sycamores, the Putone necropolis appears before us with its tombs of stoic travertine. The boy, overjoyed, runs here and there through meadows of cyclamens until he reaches a pond full of water lilies. The sun, reddening the horizon, filters through the window, catching a laden table: schiacciate (local focaccia), buglione d’agnello (lamb stew), local cheeses, bread made from ancient grains and cooked in a wood fire oven, robust and humble wines of Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Alicante and Ansonica grapes. Ancient, heady tastes. We flick through books on the territory and wonder what we should do tomorrow.

Chapter #2

Montemerano, lunchtime

Montemerano dai campi
Montemerano, piazza del Castello

We awaken, the air is crisp and the young boy, already on his bike, can’t wait to get going. We stop at the Etruscan-Roman archway of Saturnia to see the last stretch of Via Clodia. The yellow and green hues of the countryside contrast the intense tones of the earth and the brilliant white travertine. The boy shouts, pointing at a cloud of steam: The “Cascate del Mulino”. The sulphuric waters gush from the bowels of the earth and pour down limestone steps into natural pools for us to swim in. We pick up the path once more and head towards rows of vines and silver olive trees full of almost ripened fruit (soon the harvest will start, the oil mills will begin to turn and homes will test the new oil on slices of toasted bread). The sound of a bell draws our attention: Montemerano, the heart-shaped town appears out of nowhere. We follow the sound of a band, inviting us to the feast. We visit the church. The boy laughs when we tell him the story of the gattaiola (the priest who cut a cat door in a painting for his beloved cat!) In the piazza, we show him the Castle and tell medieval stories and the legend of St George. We try acquacotta (bread and vegetable soup), and from the terrace where we eat, the countryside looks like a Renaissance garden.

Chapter #3

Manciano, evening

We continue along the backstreets, between farms, fields and large oaks. The boy listens to the sounds, points to a hawk, sees the footprints of wild boars and deer, collects porcupine quills. Manciano is a big town, all uphill, dominated by a majestic keep. Walking the narrow streets, we smell the aroma of new wine. In the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, the boy sees, experiments, learns of ancient animals, arrows and spears. From the keep, the view is amazing, the sea glitters like a silver coin. Far away, Marsiliana’s castle watches over an endless countryside. We taste Ciaffagnoni (crepes) with pecorino cheese and the tortelli mancianesi (ravioli, but with a sweet filling). The boy smiles in his sleep. Tomorrow he will be spoiled for choice: a medieval castle, a Neolithic village, the Maremman countryside and then the sea...