“I knew Ghino di Tacco,” grandpa always said, when the evening marked the beginning of the “late-night” stories next to the fire. We children smiled because we knew it was a legend; but Ghino was our Robin Hood, our gentleman bandit, that long ago resolved certain disputes in his own way, perhaps cutting off some heads or straightening out injustices with a few blows. Because that was how things were done, when the Middle Ages left its mark on the walls of Torrita.
“I knew Ghino di Tacco,” and grandpa was sincere, because even he believed his stories. And Ghino is still very much alive because he continues to be talked about in Torrita: someone swears to often hear his cries in the night, cries that don’t scare, but rather reassure his people. The gentleman bandit is still here and with his legend he keeps us company.
Everything changes, elsewhere, everything collapses. But not so at Montefollonico, the medieval village where everything is as it’s always been: grapes still wither in the attics, lose their colour, develop, change, shrivel, dry, shrink on the flat, straw mats. From here on, it’s all about know-how: the scarce pressing, the barrels where the “mother” (“madre”) – often taken from the oldest production year and added to the current year’s Vin Santo – embraces the liquid, that then becomes amber-coloured, aromatic, with hues you could get lost in. Vin Santo is history; and the history here has a taste that reminds us of many others tastes and many other histories, the best of this land, which at times reveals a slightly tough character, but can loosen up, showing itself to be a maternal mother. From one mother to another “mother,” the one that bestows yeast and aromas, that gives back just as much love. “Would you like a drop of Vin Santo...?
The offer was prudent, cautious. This was how you welcomed your most
beloved guests, the esteemed ones, the most awaited; but just a drop was the
right amount because Vin Santo was sometimes the only treasure to be had in the
home. There are other treasures today, but less useful, shallower, because
there isn’t enough money that could buy the ancient taste of a land like this.
Donkeys run free in the Val di Chiana, while horses are used in the city. Our steeds have befitting short legs, long ears, a lot of breath and hard heads. They are also fast, astute, and have character you cannot even imagine. In the Palio dei Somari they run hard, their hooves kicking up the tuff alongside the passion, screams, incitements and…. profanities; yes, because we in Tuscany and in Palio season get a little carried away.
Our long, coarse-haired angels run and run – oh how they run – overtaken only, perhaps, but just by a little, by the love of the neighbourhood fans. Then they rest in the evening – who knows how aware they are of having won or gone in the wrong direction – while the men continue the challenge in the village’s taverns, between a drink and a plate of spiced pici: “Ok, you won. But next year….” And so it goes, towards another Palio.