I suddenly find myself catapulted back into the Renaissance. My heavens – I thought I was in the 21st century! As I walk through the streets of Oste, on this warm day in the end of June, I feel more and more disoriented: where am I? I hear a laugh in the distance: “Let’s get a move on, the court is about to take off!” I stop for a moment and fish out one of my history books from my bag, and then read: the aforementioned court is a historical re-enactment, complete with costumes from the period around the battle of Montemurlo in 1537, between the Medici-led Signoria with Cosimo I and the seceding Republicans, led by Baccio Valori and Filippo Strozzi.
I parade alongside knights and dames, common people and children, flag
throwers and musicians.
I receive a particularly welcomed invitation to dine with them at the Rocca. I reach the village, where the Renaissance-style banquet has been set up, and I fill up contentedly, tasting the dishes of time gone by. Very full – and slightly drunk, having enjoyed the fine Pinot noir from the Fattoria Pancrazi – I decide to take a walk out in the open air.
After walking for a while, I find
myself in the Bagnolo area and run into a man who tells me the story of the
area I’m exploring, which is known as Monteferrato.
“This place is full of plants and
flowers of every kind, even though very few people actually come here
today! It is renowned mainly for its serpentine,
that type of green marble rock used
in the construction of numerous buildings! Since you’re already here, go see
the Borghetto di Bagnolo – it’s
I follow the nice man’s advice and arrive at the Borghetto: wow, how nice!
I read – on an explanatory sign – that the place is called the “Centro Visite Borghetto di Bagnolo” (or the visit center of Borghetto di Bagnolo), and it is located within the restructured rooms of an old furnace that was part of the village of Villa del Barone, on the margins of the centuries-old volcanic area of Monteferrato. Here, they fired the very bricks that were used to build the villa itself. There’s even an exhibition underway!
The days are still long and warm, but you can feel that the summer is coming to an end—it’s the end of September now. I sit down in a cafe, refresh myself with an iced tea and notice, in an opened newspaper sitting out on the table, an article about a crafts exhibition: Montemurlo Arte e Lavoro, which will take place next weekend. I decide I’ll stop by! I walk through the streets, which are filled to the brim with stalls teeming with products and artworks of every genre: literary and artistic works, food, antiques.
From the shopkeepers and merchants of the town, I learn that the Festa dell’Olio (a local olive oil celebration) will take place on the third Sunday of November. My compatriots feel so strongly about this occasion that they’ve now been celebrating it since 1999! Despite the fact that the air is already a little chilly, the sun still shines in the sky, and so I decide to start walking toward Borgo della Rocca, where the festival will take place. Without trying to eavesdrop, I still hear the history of an oil mill that a grandfather illustrates to his grandson: “Do you see, son, that the Rocca’s oil mill is the only one still operating in Montemurlo – there are still the old millstones and the terracotta jars. But the pressing, now, that’s carried out with modern machines. Now let’s go, we’ll go eat a nice bit of garlic bread with the new oil!”