There are 20 regions in Italy, the most famous of which is Tuscany. Each region borders another country and/or an ocean, except for one – Umbria. Often called the green heart of Italy, Umbria is both agricultural and wild. Rolling hillsides, lined with olive trees and vineyards, rise to meet rugged, untamed mountains, and the foods of the region reflect its terrain. Hearty meats have been a staple in Umbria for centuries – both cooked and cured – so it was no surprise that our pranzo di vendemmia was a traditional one, with plenty of panini con salumi.
Mamma di Rossana and her friend, Antonella, lifted an empty wooden pallet onto the back of Nino’s Ape – a kind of miniature truck that can be seen throughout the countryside of Italy – and covered it with a fresh, cotton table cloth. This was our lunch table.
Three kinds of panini appeared, made of crusty bread filled with salami, mortadella or copa. A large, half-round of aged pecorino, sheep’s milk cheese, sat on a wooden cutting board next to the sandwiches. Mamma di Rossana had made a cheese-bread filled with spicy sausage, and Anotella had baked a panetone – a type of cake-bread with almonds – that was still warm in the center. There were no vegetables or fruits, just a simple, protein-rich lunch for hungry grape pickers, and everything was delicious!
Oh, and the beverage served with lunch? Vino, naturally. Lots and lots of vino. While Luigi and I re-hydrated with water, the rest of the group (including Vittoria and her brother) went for the wine. Well, actually I did see one other person drink water. After he drank four cups full of wine, he diluted his fifth with water. That counts, right?
There was chatting and laughing all through lunch, then Maurizio mentioned something about rain in the forecast (I’m not sure that was true), and someone else shouted, “Allora, andiamo!” and everyone headed back to the vineyard to finish picking the second half.
Everyone, that is, but Babo (Daddy) di Rossana, his grandson, Riccardo and Luigi. They disappeared, driving off in Babo’s panel truck, and in La Vendemmia: Part 3 we’ll tag along to find out what they were up to …