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Wine Harvest at San Colombano 06/07/2011

Posted by florencecapital in Uncategorized.
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c. 1905

Passing through the village of San Colombano, we drove along pretty country lanes, the hedges aglow with the scarlet berries of the orange thorn, and the trees clothed in vines, towards Lastra a Signa. At one farm they had begun the vintage; men, women, and children were busily occupied, the men on ladders cut down the pendice (two vine canes twisted carefully together in the early spring, with the eyes turned outwards), while the women picked off the leaves, which serve as fodder for the cattle. The finest pendice are hung up inside the loggia which almost invariably adorns a Tuscan farmhouse, in order to dry the grapes gradually for colouring and strengthening the wine after the first fermentation. The stately white oxen were chewing the cud, and the red ox-cart with a large vat tied on, and the wooden bigoncia, all stained with the red vine juice, looked most Bacchanalian. A handsome young contadino came along at a swinging pace with a bigoncia poised on one shoulder, in which purple and yellow grapes were piled high, and emptied the contents with a thud and a splash into the vat, which, when full, went slowly home to the tinaia, where the grapes were transferred to the larger vats after being well crushed…

There is nothing remarkable in the village, save a picturesque loggia, still bearing traces of lavish decoration, which was part of the hospital for pilgrims once existing inside the walls. It has been barbarously maltreated; part is now a theatre, the rest is carpenters’ shops. The population is squalid and miserable enough, and do not bear a good name; they are mostly employed in plaiting, sewing, and ironing straw hats, and the clatter of the hopper used for sorting the straw is incessant. The so-called Leghorn hats are all plaited in the lower Val d’Arno, and before the introduction of the cheap Japanese reed hats the women earned so much that the men did not think it worth while to work, and spent their time in gambling and loitering. Straw hats have diminished so much in price that a woman barely earns twopence a day, unless she is very expert, and can do the finest plait with fifteen or more straws, or is clever enough to invent a new pattern.

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