Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rufina: Finding Old Acquaintances in a Tuscan Villa

This past weekend, Beautiful Florence blog photographer Emilia Gambardella and myself
were invited guests at an event hosted at Villa il Petroio.  Upon arrival, after going up the Tuscan hills near Florence between Rufina and Pontassieve, I recognized host Eduardo Robiglio (left). whom
I had interviewed in Florence seven years ago.  He introduced me to his mother, Carole Bolton (right).
I discovered that Carole and I had studied, in different years, at Florence's UniversitĂ  per Stranieri
(University for Foreigners).  She told me that right before she was to leave, she met her future husband,
Eduardo's father.

Why did I talk to Eduardo in 2006?   I am best known as an art writer, if not art,
then food.
The dessert that was served to the guests at lunch, chocolate truffles, gives the idea of the subject of
our talk, which was hot chocolate.  I reported that the premium Italian hot chocolate served at the Robiglio cafĂ© on via de' Servi "represents a family tradition spanning 75 years."
Just a year later Eduardo sold the business and they started a new chapter in life.

The Robiglio had renovation work done on their weekend home in the Tuscan countryside.
This is the view from Villa Petroio on a variable March day.
The Robiglio family now rents the villa, guest wing and medieval village to host weddings or family reunions as well as producing estate-bottled olive oil and wine.
Speaking of wine, above are bottles of Villa Petroio wine, a blend of Tuscan Sangiovese and Canaiolo grapes with Merlot, on the lunch table.  As you can see, the floral arrangements matched the furniture.

Ever curious, I wandered into the kitchen for another surprise.

One of the cooks was a family friend just giving a hand.
"I've known Eduardo since he was a child," said Anna Bini (above).

The surprises continued.  Holding up eight fingers to represents decades, she confided her age.
Initially working in fashion in Florence, she moved to Paris to open a restaurant in order to legally employ her three sons.  "With a work contract abroad, this meant they were exempt from the draft,"
she told me.  "And one of my sons liked Paris so much that he is still there today
to manage the Casa Bini restaurant," she added.

Anna's proud demeanor was a mix between Parisian and Tuscan.
Pointing to the risotto with Tuscan porcini mushrooms that she had prepared,
Anna said in a whisper, "the rice is parboiled."

It was delicious.  I explained to Anna that parboiled rice is common in the U.S., which was
after all Carole Robiglio's homeland.

The hospitality continued with a concert of Florentine folk songs.

The group sang traditional stornelli which they heard as children.
The instruments ranged from the accordion, guitar and tamborine to
(surprise again), a saxophone.

The group's name is Gli Amici del Chianti, but talking to them I discovered the musicians hailed from the nearby Valdarno area, only part of which could be loosely defined as "Chianti."
Maybe the fact that Disney has also hired them to entertain Americans on tour in Tuscany
inspired their name.

The accordion player, named Simone, told me that he comes from
a village of 100 residents named

"But I have been there!" I exclaimed.  "During my first summer here during the '80s, I was hosted by a family in a remote area called 'Marnia' in the woods near Rignano.  One hot August evening, we drove over to Bombone, as we found out, the place were artist Ardengo Soffici was born, to attend
a donut festival.  Townswomen wearing comfy slippers were frying and serving
donuts (bombolone) on the streets of Bombone at midnight.
As usual, I was the only American in sight.

Simone was dumbfounded, and highly amused.

"Bombone is near Rignano sull'Arno, the home of Florence's mayor
Matteo Renzi," he said.

"And did you know him?" I asked.
"Of course, I remember him as a child walking down the street with the newspaper under his arm,
a sure sign of his future calling," he replied.

"And now?"
"Well, I voted for him...and he disappeared, a true politician," he told me.

"Let's drink to that," said everyone else within earshot.

Reporting live from Villa il Petroio
for Beautiful Florence.
                                              --- Rosanna

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