A Journey to the Countryside

Maddison McMaken Florence, Italy


March 24, 2023

The city of Florence is filled with richness, but the countryside is an entirely different beauty saturated with vineyards, olive trees, and a colorful landscape. The Orsini Family Farm is a traditional Italian farm in the countryside of Umbria specializing in wine and olive oil. On your journey there, you will see the breathtaking hillsides of Tuscany, which is a refreshing contrast to the cobblestone streets of Florence. When you arrive, you will meet the Orsini family and have a traditional Italian farm breakfast – bread with olive oil – a very simple start to the exciting day ahead.
After finishing breakfast, you partake in activities modeled by the typical work done by the Orsinis. Our
first activity was making pasta. We were shown how to make pasta properly, all the way from the dough to the type of cut. Since I arrived in Florence, it was something I’ve wanted to learn and there was no better way than from such a wise woman who has perfected it. It was such an authentic experience, and I enjoyed creating such unforgettable memories. You only need “grano duro” (hard grain flour), eggs, and elbow grease to make the most authentic Italian pasta. And yes, it’s worth it. Once we finished our pasta, we were able to safely pack it away for home to cook later (I can attest - mine turned out wonderfully). This experience has inspired me to learn to make my own pasta, which is a story for another time.
I moved on from pasta making to planting tomato seeds that will be harvested in the Summer. Flavio
taught us many aspects of the planting process and the importance of biodiversity. The seeds we planted were from last season’s harvest. Flavio strives to protect biodiversity from standardization because it is harmful to the future of agriculture. The seeds we planted are very special to him. They were the seeds derived from the
tomatoes his grandfather planted. This is why the tradition of planting these tomatoes is so important to him and his family.
We then went into the vineyard to learn about the process of creating wine. Spring is the season of olives,
so we were unable to pick grapes off the vines. Since I had visited the farm during the fall, I was able to pick them when I first visited. I remember how verdant and lush they were. The grapes I helped harvest were used to produce wine for the upcoming season. Being able to see how seasons impact each other and seeing the contrasts between fall and spring is magnificent. It was amazing being able to see the beauty in each season on the farm.
We were then taught how Flavio makes sweet wine and jam from old grapes that he must squeeze; he can only get a few drops from each bunch. He continues to forge the jam through this strenuous process because it is how he was taught. He wants to honor his family traditions by continuing to undertake the tasks as they have been done for decades. You will not find such authentically made wine in the US... that is for sure. The next activity was one of my favorites. We fed the farm’s animals. We walked throughout the farm, passed by the olive fields, and made our way to the horses where we fed them blocks of bread. There was a particular horse that stood out. He was all white and quite old. We were told that he was blind in one eye and the other horses are his walking guide on the farm. They don’t leave him behind. After feeding the horses, we got to feed the ponies... they are not as sweet. They are very outspoken and, they have big personalities. Back near the grape vineyard, they have a donkey who loves visitors. She is very sweet and soft. They also have puppies who love some attention. I suggest you go visit them!
After a full day of activities, we all sat down together and had a traditional Italian lunch where we were
served an appetizer of small bread slices with different toppings, a primo of pasta, a secondo of meat, and insalata.
A dolce finished the meal. They pair the meal with their homemade wine from the farm, and there is plenty for all. With our dessert, they gave everyone a taste of the sweet wine we learned about earlier.

Following lunch, we had some free time to roam and explore the farm to take pictures of the beautiful landscape with a view of the Trasimeno Lake. I recommend sitting on the swing they have located on the top of the farm overlooking the vineyard. It’s placed so perfectly it is a must when you visit. The view is impeccable.
I have visited the Orsini farm twice now since landing in Florence, once in the fall and once in the spring.
Each experience was vastly different from the other. It was interesting how the previous visit to the farm
connected to my last. Each group of students who visit the farm leaves footprints for the others to follow. It is truly a beautiful dissemination of knowledge and information spread across cultures. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to indulge in the Italian way of life, it broadens your perspective. You will have a first-hand understanding of what it takes to produce such finely crafted wine. You will know the effort required to produce such authentic goods. The Orsini family is a treasured part of my experience here in Italy. I will forever be grateful for their hospitality and gift of knowledge.