Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Orchids in the field

...and a small mystery to solve

Last May we discovered and discussed an unusual orchid, Ophrys apifera which had appeared in our garden. This year, in mid-April different specimens of orchid, glimpsed in the past but now more abundant, probably thanks to the Lack of Deer, are sprouting and budding in the lengthening grass of the more field-like areas of the garden.

This orchid might belong to the pyramidalis species of the Anacamptis genus of the Orchidaceae family, but doubts persist about colour and scent. I quote: The colour of the flower varies from pink to purple, or rarely white, and the scent is described as "foxy". 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Springtime in Chianti

A Glorious April

Sparkling, sun-filled with light breezes and clear skies. This April we have been blessed with fine weather, early and abundant flowering and mild to warm weather.
More rain would not have been amiss (whatever happened to April showers?) but it seems churlish to complain. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Of Monks and Forests

The Casentino Forests and Camaldoli

Our jaunt to the Casentino was largely motivated by a practical question. How best to care for, safeguard, sustain and conserve the woodland at Le Ripe? The guardians of the Casentine Forests might have some answers. We had also heard that the forests are well worth a visit.

The Casentine Forests, a national park covering 36,800 hectares, are renowned for their extension, beauty and age - and for enjoying, for at least eight centuries, the guardianship of various communities of monks. Saint Francis of Assisi chose La Verna as a place of prayer in 1224 and two centuries earlier, in 1012, the Benedictine Saint Romuald, who spent most of his life founding hermitages all over Italy, chose a south-facing hillside in the heart of beech and fir forests in the southern Casentino as one of his last works. 
Saint Romuald, detail from Fra Angelico's Crucifixion and Saints,St Mark's Florence, 1441-2
The territory, known as Campus Maldoli, after its landowner, became Camaldoli over time. Here Romualdo built five cells for hermits and, further down the hillside, founded a monastery to offer hospitality for travellers and those in search of spiritual peace. This double function persists today, with 8 monks leading their life of prayer and work in the hermitage and 22 monks taking care of hospitality and the more material aspects of life in the monastery below. There is a flourishing commercial aspect to the complex, which sells elegantly-packaged cosmetics, edibles and ceramics.

Antica Farmacia and its products recall the more famous one in Florence: but this is possibly older

The 'Casentino' denominates a broad valley in the province of Arezzo, east and north of Florence, through which the infant river Arno flows. The Casentino is separated from the upper Valdarno by the massif of Pratomagno. Soci, Stia, Poppi and Bibbiena lie in the valley and are still famous for their centuries-old production of panno feltrato or felted wool cloth  which was first created for the Camaldolese monks. But behind and above these towns rise the forested hills and mountains we had come to visit. The best is almost invariably in the hills.