Tour of the Orto
Hands down… the highlight of my trip to Italy was my visit to this amazing garden (or “Orto” in Italian.) We spent one entire evening of our trip feasting, laughing, and catching up with some wonderful old friends. Not to mention seeing some awesomely delicious vegetables and fruits growing. I was in Heaven. Gardens feed my soul! Not to mention my face.
For years when my husband was a child, he got to spend semesters with his parents in Italy while they taught for Harding University’s “study abroad” program. He can still remember his childhood “almost mothers” Ana and Renata, two Italian ladies who cooked and did laundry at the Harding villa. Renata is fiery and says whatever she wants 🙂 (And she’ll tell you that too.) And Ana is quiet and adorable. The word I heard Ana use most often the night we went to the Orto was “Brava, Brava!” when someone would reach for seconds. These ladies loved seeing us eat. And we loved obliging them!
Two years ago, when Ana and Renata heard that their little “Creestofehr” was getting married… they purchased us some gorgeous orange sheets from a very upscale home decor store in Italy and sent them to the states for us as a wedding gift. They are absolutely the most precious ladies ever!
These ladies served us up a meal that was TO-DIE-FOR. And I mean to tell you that they literally made every bit of it from scratch! Homemade ravioli with meat sauce, fried zucchini flowers, fresh bib lettuce lightly dressed in olive oil, crusty Tuscan bread, grilled pork and steak, homegrown strawberries with cream, and an amazing berry crostata! And of course coffee 🙂
But what’s more amazing is that they not only prepared these foods, they GREW most of them! With the exception of the steak and pork, everything we ate and drank at that table had been grown right there in the orto. Talk about eating local! We were right there at the source.
Before we sat down to eat, I insisted that Lorenzo (Renata’s husband) show us around the orto. He did so happily… twittering about and describing everything to us in Italian. I just beamed and snapped photos, nevermind that I couldn’t understand a word. Who needs words when you share a gardener’s soul?
This is Lorenzo… pretty awesome-lookin’ dude, isn’t he?
Renzo happily pulled up various crops from the ground to show me what they were. This garlic was as huge and potent-smelling as any I’ve ever seen.
I first walked around the “orchard” section of the garden, where I saw these curious young fruits…
Next, Renzo led us around the corner to these guys. All the eggs they eat come from right here 🙂
And check this out… Renzo and Renata grow grapes here in the orto and make their own wine and grappa !
He showed me the shed where they age the wine… SO impressive!
Just outside here were the most gigantic rosemary and sage bushes I had ever seen. I had serious rosemary envy when I saw these. My bush seems just fine staying the size it is. Same with my sage.
After seeing the chickens and wine shed, we moved on into the garden area…
So many lovely vegetables were growing (many of which I’ve never seen in plant form before.) Like artichokes!
Renzo had scads of tomatoes… row upon row!
The sweetest, most perfect strawberries I’ve ever had. (He runs a water line under this plastic tarp so that it wets the soil without wetting the berries. Good tip!)
Zucchini… (we even ate these flowers later on!)
Lettuce… (YUM, we ate this at dinner too!)
And the last thing he gleefully pulled out to show us was this great big goose egg!
It was a night I’ll never forget. Eating, eating more, and smiling endlessly between bites.