Eating is a passion all over Italy
In Tuscany it is almost a religion, and in this little community Vittorio is something of a high priest. He has never used a recipe, keeping strictly to the dishes passed down for generations. It gives him a great deal of pleasure to show people how it is done, and then to sit, talk and eat together, and drink good Italian wine. It may come from nearby Chianti where you can visit the vineyards, or any of the other surrounding wine growing areas, but it will be good – and because you are in Italy, not expensive.
When Vittorio cooks you can be sure that he will go out of his way to obtain the best local ingredients ; funghi, lamb, cheese, vegetables, even wild boar. He knows the people to go to. There is no food fresher. If you would like him to show you how to make a traditional local dish, it is sufficient to pay for the ingredients and add something extra for his time and trouble. He will be happy, and so will you. You will never leave the table hungry when you eat with Vittorio.
Years ago when the BBC were doing a program on juniper harvesting in Tuscany, a reporter interviewing him for Radio 4 found that the entire ground floor of his house was devoted to food.
Beneath the living rooms the cantina was stacked from top to bottom with wood for cooking and heating.
This is the traditional mountain preparation for winter from the days when when there were no roads, travel was by foot and the climate was a lot harsher. It is only in the last 30 years that has it been possible to grow olive trees at this altitude.
Grocers and supermarkets are now within easy reach, but everyone still cultivates their vegetable garden as they used to from necessity. Old habits and passions die hard, and at the height of the season peaches, plums, zucchini, tomatoes – fruit and vegetables of every sort – are often carried around from door in the hope of finding someone who can use them!