Giovanna picks us up where we’ve parked our car, below the Tuscan hill town of Pari.
She assures us that we should not drive our rental car the few miles to her farm. She’s right. Deep ruts scar the roads where tractors have traveled all summer.
We speed along in a tattered truck dipping and bumping as we go. Only a few bumps bounce us fully above our seats. Stella, Giovanna’s little dog, has wedged herself behind my back. She likes to look out the window.
We arrive at Podere Vignali, Giovanna and her father Carlo’s farm and agriturismo. Here they host guests and cultivate lavender for botanical products and olives for oil.
The doors to the large kitchen are open. Two glass containers hold brilliant yellow liquid. After soaking lemon peel in pure alcohol for a month, this morning she’s added simple syrup to make Limoncello. We get the first taste.
Several white pages cling to the wall. On them, the number 58 – each number is drawn as an outline with a squiggle between. Giovanna explains, “It keeps the flies away. I don’t know why, but it works!”
Over several hours, we prepare the dishes while we discuss cooking, ingredients, animal treatment, Italian and American culture, religion, and politics. We learn that Giovanna is a Marine Biologist, but that she and her husband prefer this life and Tuscany for raising their son.
I am skeptical about the recipes; they are so simple. But they mock me by being delicious.
It’s dark as we ride back to our car; the moon should be full tomorrow. Today we feel closer to Italy.