Valerio’s Vegetables (and How They Helped His Broken Heart)

Valerio is a male first name derived from the Roman surname Valerius, which itself is derived from the Latin verb valere – to be strong. It’s a fitting name for our friend, Valerio, who runs our favorite produce stand each Monday, the weekly market day in Chiusi.

He’s a presence, Valerio is, smiling and joking with customers, jumping (literally) from bin to bin to grab exactly what you need to make the best minestrone or tastiest insalata or sweetest fruit tart. It’s as if he personally knows every head of lettuce. “Questo è una buona (this one is good),” he’ll say, “but the other one is better. It was taken from the field just yesterday evening.”

One time he saw us studying various varieties of peaches. “Sono tutti buoni,” he remarked, “but this is the kind that I’m crazy over.” He snatched up three small white peaches from the bin – one for Lou, one for me, and one for him. We savored them together, and then left with a bag full.

To see (and feel!) the bubbling-over passion that Valerio exudes, you’d never guess that his work has helped him survive a personal tragedy. After devoting much of his life to working in fresh produce production in various areas throughout Italy, Valerio retired – just a few years ago. Soon afterward, his wife, whom he adored, was killed in a car accident. And just like that, everything changed.

So he came back to the work he’s known and loved for so long. “Questo, mi ha salvato (this saved me),” he once told us, gesturing to the fruits and vegetables around him. “This brings joy back into my life.” And Valerio passes that joy – born out of tragedy – along to so many of us who visit his produce stand on Mondays in Chiusi.

Valerio, whose names means to be strong, is an inspiration in how to do exactly that.

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Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and organizes personalized experiences and specialty retreats in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy, for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the regions.

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