Hidden Tuscany: My Experience in the Memory Valley
Pieve Santo Stefano has become a familiar destination for me: every September I go there during the Premio Pieve as a member of the social media team. But, with all the work involved — work for a great cause — I don’t get the chance to be a tourist.
Pieve Santo Stefano is part of the Valtiberina (the Tiber River valley), an area difficult to describe but full of surprising discoveries. It is the place where the Tevere begins and where you can enter the real Tuscan way of life.
Last February I came to Pieve Santo Stefano, invited by my great friend Alessia Clusini who had a project to propose to me … the Memory Route! Alessia perfectly knows my love for Tuscany and for this valley and she gave me a chance to get even more in touch with this area, discovering more about its treasures.
It was really an amazing experience travelling from Pieve Santo Stefano to Anghiari to meet people, to taste food and wine, and to learn more about this valley! We did lots of things during that 3 day holiday, and I was impressed by the kindness of these Tuscans and their love for their homeland. I immediately realized that these meetings would forever change my concept of travel.
Thanks to Giacomo (“Selve” as called by locals) I found out through the words and the diaries of the people of Pieve Santo Stefano that their small village suffered the destruction of World War II. Years later, Pieve was reborn and through the inspiration of journalist Saverio Tutino, the Diary Archive was created:
a place where diaries and stories are collected from all over Italy. Stories of war, love and life. Every time I listen to one of them I feel grateful and enriched. Stories connect us with our roots, and memory can help change the world.
In Anghiari I was impressed by the work of the textile makers, the Busatti. This is an internationally known family business, run with devotion, passion and a deep knowledge of raw materials and textile traditions. I was shocked when I saw for the first time their old looms and heard the sound they made, a sound like a song. Entering into this textile world made me happy… I had the chance for the first time to play with colors, to touch and to understand the passion of this amazing family that, since 1842, has opened its doors to guests, buyers and tourists.
We walked around Anghiari and in the evening we went to the well-known restaurant, La Nena, where we tasted really good Tuscan food and wine. It was one of the best food experiences in my life. At La Nena you can find traditional dishes and the culture of Tuscan cuisine. We were with Rossano Ghignoni — the friend you want to have in Tuscany — and we had lots of fun speaking about his roots, about the landscape and all the experiences you can have in Valtiberina!
This hidden Tuscany gave me more than knowledge; it was a real encounter with the local community, with its traditions and its flavors. I returned home acknowledging that, in this part of Italy, I was not a tourist but rather a pilgrim. I went back with connections that could live forever.
If you wish to experience the Memory Valley as I did, contact: http://en.memoryroute.org/plan-your-route/
This work was made possible also thanks to the amazing help in proofreading by Ann Game, Emeritus Professor at School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.