Sunday, October 25, 2009

Arriving in Monte San Savino

I'm going to backtrack a little and set the stage for porchetta, Monte San Savino style. I'll also tell you a little more about our house exchanging experience.

The evening we arrived in Monte San Savino was after the day we drove through Lucca where I lost and found my purse. Lots of flailing around, rain, and upset. It was a long, intense day of driving. We wearily drove up the tiny road that snakes around the mountain to Monte San Savino, gradually feeling our spirits lift. We had crawled around the autostrata for hours, our little Peugeot circling Florence like a tortoise. Here's a picture of the car, which drives like a Ferrari (sort of)during an unscheduled photo break.

It was evening, the piazza was lit up, and no one was on the streets.

Mark Brownstein and Molly Kellog gave us directions to pick up the key to their house from the man at the Tabaccheria. Mirco and his wife are gorgeous; they could be the stars of "Monte San Savino: The Movie". Their shop sells wine, tobacco, olive oil, and lots of eye catching doodads. There's a salumeria case in the back where the make sandwiches. We bought some olio nuovo (this year's crop of olive oil), took our key, and bounced our luggage over the cobblestones to the house.

Home exchanging is always full of surprises. No matter how many pictures we look at, it's thrilling to travel across the ocean, arrive in a town a millenia old, and open the door to the unknown. We were so happy as we walked through the house, up the stairs, admiring the lofty comforters and stone fireplaces. We couldn't have been more pleased to end up in Monte San Savino at Mark and Molly's house, feeling comfortable, safe, and at home.

They visited us last summer in a hospitality exchange. It's an arrangement whereby the home owner hosts the exchangers. We have had several very enjoyable hospitality exchanges with interesting people; what could be nicer as a foreigner than meeting the locals and having them show you the town, introduce them to your friends, and feed you the local specialties? We have had hospitality exchangers who kept their distance, but when Mark and Molly visited us the summer of 2009 in Santa Fe, we became friends almost immediately. We picked them up from the shuttle (not ever having clapped eyes on them before) and chattered all the way home. The next day we set out to help them have a good time. We cooked together, and I learned how to make the most delicious pork roast, flavored with wild fennel pollen, garlic, and herbs.

One of the several shops in Monte San Savino that make porchetta daily.

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