Stomping grapes

Stomping grapes Harvest time in the vineyards brings to mind an old tradition of feet squelching into grapes, juices oozing, mushy and mulching,  in an old cellar that reeks of wine enough to inebriate while stomping.

And while this is no longer the case, it’s still an arduous job, and the old cellars are still headily intoxicating at this time of year.

At the Cinque Terre the harvesting started early September and most of it was finished in 3 weeks with everyone in the community giving a hand, either in the vineyards or behind the scenes, emptying crates and providing lunches for the workers.Cinque terre grapes Many still have vines over trellising (the old tradition) to expose grapes to more sunshine and protect them from the strong wind, which means sitting or crouching to pick. Sounds fun, and was, when I took some tourists to help out, but back breaking when the whole vineyard needs to be harvested in this way.

Vines on trelliss

Nowadays where they can the vines are planted in rows, cutting away the leaves during the previous months to allow more sun and harvesting is a little easier.Mono rail Cinque Terre

The mono rail is the saviour, taking the crated grapes  back up or down hill to the closest roadway. From there locals send their grapes to the Agrarian Cooperative for processing. A far cry from carrying baskets on shoulders along the terraces.

Tuscan wine EstateAround my home area and Chianti the harvesting started later and is still going on. Many of the vines are still dripping with grapes, bathed in sunshine. their purple hue already boasting a great wine to come. I find it reassuring to be blocked behind a tractor on the local road, a sense of belonging to an agricultural community.

Chianti San Giovese grapes


It has been a good year this year in both regions. The long hot Summer has been favorable, perhaps a little to dry so the quantity will be less but a sigh of relief after last year. 2014 was blighted with a long wet Spring and Summer and many of the grapes rotted away, particularly in the 5 Terre so it was a very bad season.

Sting's wine estate

Sting’s Wine Estate – La Palagina

If you plan to be over around grape harvest time in Tuscany, think about giving a hand, it’s a great opportunity to feel part of the place and a fun experience. Toscana go website offers a list of places to stay where you can also participate in the harvest. If you really want to go up market you can pay around €262 to Sting to harvest on his property, although there is no guarantee he will sing while you work, or even after!?!Grape pickers

And of course if you are in the Cinque Terre area contact Save Vernazza to give a hand to the locals.

With so much hot sunshine it will be a potent drop and we look forward to tasting the results of our hard labour!Grape harvest Chianti

Schiacciata al uva

And indulging in the local ‘Schiacciata al ‘Uva’ flat bread with grapes! Yum yum!





Paolucci’s Papier-Mache Art

Yet another art exhibition opening this time by a friend of mine, Enrico Paolucci, inEnrico Paolucci exhibition Pienza. The name may ring a bell with some of you as his father was also an artist – Aleardo Paolucci and I took many of my tour groups to their farm property just outside of Pienza (Southern Tuscany). Unlike most artists however Enrico works with papier-mâché creating painted fish, owls, wild boar together with scenic panels of his home area – Val d’Orcia and the Cinque Terre.

His work is quite unusual and his technique original, surprising most people when they first come across it. His bas-relief panels have been placed in hotel lobbies, on cruise papier-mâché panelships and decorate the walls of many restaurants from Sicily to Milan. Even the new restaurant/ food chain ‘Eataly’ in Milan has his work and asked him to make 100 mini fish as table decorations….which was quite a feat! papier-mâché fish

He had always dabbled with clay and then experimented with papier-mâché which became his favourite medium. When we first met  in 1997 he had only just started, initially making lots of fish having been captivated by those he had seen snorkelling in the dead sea.papier-mâché fish





His fish have been particularly successful and even some of my tour members have taken one or two home to Australia and New Zealand. His home territory of Val d’Orcia is twin territory with the Cinque Terre and his fish are also in various galleries there and other seaside resorts in Liguria. A very appropriate home for them and no beach house should be without one so I am lucky to have some in my little haven at the Cinque Terre as well!

papier-mâché fishYears ago he was commissioned to make an enormous ‘Barramundi’ for a club called by the same name as the owner had been to Australia and fallen in love with the Barramundi fish legend . Having seen the Barramundi when I was in Darwin I can understand that, as they are an amazing fish, starting life as males then changing gender when they are mature around 4-5 years old! The ones I saw were huge and no papier-mâché barramundiwonder the Aborigines consider them a magical fish. Enrico poured over Australian photos, sketches and Aboriginal art books and made a prototype which proudly hangs in my lounge, a little faded and dusty but just as magic.

At the current exhibition his art panels and animals and fish are much more sophisticated,

Enrico Paolucciand still delighting the onlookers. Wild boars, owls, roosters, and the sweet rolling hills of the Val d’ Orcia show his devotion to this beautiful area of Tuscany.papier-mâché panel



Enrico Paolucci exhibition




papier-mâché panelEnrico Paolucci papier-mache panel



He has often done bas relief panels associated with the legend ‘The Odyssey’ in particular ‘Circe and her animals’.




And we were all rather touched to see the special  tribute to his father who had passedAleardo Paolucci away in 2013. A memorial exhibition for his father in May 2015 had used this painting by Aleardo on the poster.


Enrico’s tribute ‘Conversation’ with nature below


Enrico Paolucci


So follow me now as I take you on a guided tour of the opening of the exhibition.

Sue Jane Enrico Paolucci




You can see more of Enrico Paolucci ‘s work here or better still drop by Pienza as his work and his father’s decorate most of the cafes and restaurants in town!