Beginning on Sunday - lunch at our place with Gilberta and Mario (Francesco's Mum and Dad), Laura, Gabriele, Tomaso and Alessandro (sister, brother-in-law and two nephews) and of course Francesco and Jennifer. Ralph cooked up a ferocious Austrian feast, as we knew we could not begin to compete with Gilberta when it comes to Italian cooking. The weather was incredible - I was in a t-shirt until about 3 when the sun started dipping behind the hills. We ate lunch inside, but dessert, coffee and grappa outside, with games of soccer and hide 'n seek dominating the afternoon. A truly wonderful time and we have begun to think of Francesco's family as our own. They have been so welcoming and loving to us in such a short space of time.
So, to ensure Sunday wasn't our last goodbye, we decided to assist with the annual olive harvest and spent Monday and Tuesday at their family plot picking olives. Together with Mario, Francesco and a couple of Mario's good friends, we harvested over 400kg of olives (only about 1/5 of the total amount). The kids had a ball - as did we. Lunch on both days was a wonderful affair with red wine, Vin Santo (a type of dessert wine/brandy), grappa and espresso always on offer. The weather both days was wonderful (though cold - the grappa helped!) and the fact that we could peep out from the olive branches and look down on Florence kept our spirits very high. We had such fun and it will be something we'll never ever forget. Some pictures from our two days:
And then, to top it all off, we were invited today to watch the olives being pressed into olive oil...followed by lunch. I don't think I can adequately express what this meant to us, Ralph especially. We feel very privileged to have been included in this experience. And to thank us for our work we received 5 liters of the nuovo olio (new olive oil). Lunch was again wonderful and long - with us finally dragging ourselves away at 4.30...with more gifts and the promise to try and see each other one more time before we leave next Saturday. We'll miss them all very much.
Here are some pics from the olive pressing:
Washing our germs away:
Down the shoot they go:
Here it comes:
The left over mulsh (which is pressed again for more oil):