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March 17, 2009
While it’s true that there is a singular quality of light in Tuscany which bathes everything in a warmth that at once softens and refines, the Tuscan campagna has nothing on the Roman countryside.
To wake up here and throw open the shutters of our friends’ country house and gaze out at the gently undulating fields of grape and olive makes me feel like I have lived here my whole life.
Like every household in the region, it produces its own excellent fruity and vibrant olive oil and sturdy but eminently quaffable red wine, which we drink by the tumbler.
The pleasures of the Roman table are many, but we have been lured here by our friends’ promise of one in particular, a Pecorino Romano that rivals in savor and complexity that king of Italian cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano.
The man who makes this exquisite cheese just happens to be our friends’ cousin. He is a bearded, barrel-chested fellow traveler who holds forth with equal gusto on the salutary properties of his pecorino (including a formulation I’ve heard most often in South East Asia where it is invariably accompanied by a conspiratorial wink: it “makes you strong”) and the evils of unrestricted capitalism.
For him it is a point of pride that one cannot find his products in New York or London. His jaw drops in genuine amazement, however, when I tell him the per etto price his cheese would fetch at any delicatessen worth its salt.
Whatever his economic philosophy, one has to admire the works of his hands, from the cozy farm house that he designed and constructed to the range of formaggi and salumi that he produces and brings to market locally and in Rome.
He has definitely mastered the Roman art of arrangiarsi.
As we survey the pasturage outside the farmhouse windows, the late afternoon sun illuminating the fields of grain and the contented herds of sheep, I can’t help but think: Tuscany, eat your heart out.
Where do you find your favorite quality of light?
Next I hop in a cab and head to Kensington to admire Holland Park, a tranquil delight and a convenient introduction to the work of England's greatest gardener, Lancelot "Capability" Brown.