What does one do on a typical Sunday in Montepulciano? Visit with Laura and Marco, of course, on Laura’s family farm, Puscina, with sweeping views of Val d’Orcia.
Strong winds have gained speed today, and we are swiftly welcomed into the warm, fire-stoked family home for introductions before the tour of this precious self-sustaining land. Laura and Marco's two adorable little boys join our scavenger hunt as we pass grazing sheep with their lamb, and spy trumpet mushrooms and acorns, until the destination I’ve been waiting for, the Cinta Senese, a special ancient breed of pig native to the province of Siena in Tuscany. Cinta means 'belt' and Senese 'Siena'. The wide banded badge of white honor, wrapped around their upper girth of an otherwise black coat, has me drooling.
It’s a pig’s life on Puscina. Roaming in freedom, outside any semblance of an incarcerated environment, purely nourished on cereals and herbs of the earth, reaping the benefits of nature, I swear the Cinta Senese visibly smile. Trotting along with their pack, ears flopping happily, it’s one male to upwards of seven females for this lucky swine, and I’m shown the hallowed patches of land where the sows nurse their piglets. At the end of the Cinta Senese's 16-18 month lifespan on Puscina, there’s a humane end to their rich life that has been provided for by the humans who are, in turn, healthier thanks to this bianco-banded beauty. And, the circle of life continues . . .
Retiring from the bluster outside, I look forward to sampling the robust example of a simple yet particular Tuscan lunch. Laura, her sisters, and Mario, their father, deftly prepared the highest quality in Cinta Senesce. The lardo melts on my tongue, and I taste the pristine land outside that had been ingested by the pig, and already I feel my life extend. This is good cholesterol. You know, that high-density lipoprotein that your doctor talks on about during your annual physical. The prosciutto is deep rosso in colour, and the intensity of flavor balances perfectly with its hardy texture.
Let’s talk pane, or let’s not, because I’ll sadly never taste this pane again unless I move in with Laura’s family. Again, the flour is of this land and blended only with water, worked through Laura’s mother, Beatrice’s, fingers methodically until the perfect consistency, ready for baking. I, for one, prefer granular bread, and this delivers, proving the perfect catalyst for, you know, olive oil from Puscina’s grove. I haven’t tasted bread this exceptional since my great grandmother’s Irish brown bread, and of course that recipe is lost in someone’s attic.
Utilizing all that is naturally at one’s disposal is Tuscany’s ceremonial formula, particularly in this region, and so it doesn’t surprise me when Marco announces that his wife, Laura, has created a wedding flower and design business using the flora of her land.
The snapshot of a leisurely Sunday suddenly comes to a close, when the children exhibit behavioral tendencies that only a nap can quell. And, I feel a yawn coming on myself from the local Vino Nobile that washed down one of the most simple, yet quality, leisurely lunches I’ve ever savored, enveloped in the company of true family values; an afternoon that I will remember for years to come.