Keith is driving the white van loaded with red and yellow crates brimming with the last two days olive harvest.
We’re bunched in beside him–Meredith finishing off her oat flake breakfast as the sun begins to warm the hillside vines and olive groves.
It is 8.30 in the morning, at the start of a long day.
Through the windows of the van as it negotiates the holes in the unmade-up road–the central Tuscan hills come into historic perspective.
What’s that tower up there?
Dates back to 800AD.
The hills are smirking in the shade–they’ve been here a lot longer.
By nine we are at the Frantoio.
By 9:15am the olives have been emptied into the steel shute and are in the system, soon to come out as liquid gold–as we thought.
We wait in the sunny waiting room, reading.
After half-an-hour Keith comes in looking daggers.
There’s a fault in the heating mechanism–they don’t know how long it’ll take.
This is a problem for us–we have to be in Florence by lunchtime.
Meredith spotted a conference being held over the weekend at the New York University Florence campus analyzing the recent American elections.
(She spent six months at Stanford University’s campus in Florence in her student days–so this kind of event resonates.)
I’ll take you back home and check train times.
Keith, keeping his good temper but worried about his olive oil, ferries us back through the sunny hills.
Within an hour we are on a train to Florence.
Soon after we manage a quick lunch (research!) before heading to the event.
The conference is being held at the magnificent Villa Pietra up in the hills north of Florence.
(Sir Harold Acton was born and lived there most of his life. It is now the NYU campus in Florence.)
Pollsters, pundits and campaign managers from both sides sit on panels and talk amicably about what happened on November 6th, why and how the parties will adjust to the result.
(One afternoon’s talking shop does for me and I’m able to watch the following morning from the comfort of the hotel room as it’s streamed live over the internet.
From the low drone of garroulous expertise a voice arises that I recognise! Delighted I turn up the volume to hear my wife making a succinct point to the room while the large panel of experts look on in wonder!)
Late afternoon, now, we make our way back into Florence and catch our first sight of the Duomo this trip.
It sits benign and vast in the centre of the city as the evening lights come on round it.
We check into our hotel down by the river and think about dinner!
La Sostanza is a short walk away and they have room at 7.30.
I discovered this modest restaurant by chance in 1977 and have been a regular ever since.
It serves simple fare at communal tables in an unassuming room.
The cooking is done on a wood fire in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp.
Same photos and paintings on the walls–and two of the waiters are sons of ones I met on my first visit!
We are weary, but happy to have heard from Keith that the machinery at the frantoio
was fixed quicker than expected and no harm done to the olives already being processed.
End of a day and a half and back to the hotel and a final photo op.