My previous two weeks have been a little strange and it all began with a visit to my friend Stavros. A short drive from my place at Castel Porrona, just outside Cinigiano, takes you to his farm which heavily featured in Second Chance Summer. When I arrived there was a coach parked on the drive, which, if you have ever spent time with Stavros, would not take you by surprise.
When I walked in I was greeted by 4 professors and a gaggle of high school kids. At which point Stavros took it upon himself to announce that a famous TV actor from England had just arrived. Now, to the grown-ups this was taken with a pinch of salt, but for the kids it was a moment of pure excitement. So I had kids taking subtle (or not so) pictures of me as they walked past. Nice one Stavros! The kids were from Sparta and the school Stavros went to as a kid, and after a short tour of his place we headed off to Colle Massari.
Colle Massari are the largest organic wine producer in Tuscany, which means they are the other end of the scale to Stavros and all the farms I work with. It’s an impressive site. The building is constructed over 3 floors, so the entire process from picking the grapes to ageing in oak is all done by gravity. The grapes arrive on the top floor and slowly work their way down. A wonderful way to spend an afternoon, and worth a visit if you’re ever out this way. They produce 600,000 bottles a year, Stavros produces 35,000. www.cuccuvaia.com
I finished off the week with a trip to Punta Ala, a beautiful coastal part of the Tuscan region. It also has a mountain bike trail centre so if you’re into your biking and want stunning views, technical trails, and finishing your ride at the beach, then look it up.
After a good hour of riding I met an Italian lad who was doing his usual circuit and he stopped to speak with me and Jackson. Now, one thing I love about being a foreigner here is asking this question “parla inglese?” to which either comes one of two replies “no” or “yes a little bit”. The latter is the answer I got on this day. We started talking bikes. He was admiring my bike, which is an orange Crush Hardtail, asking where it was from and the cost, etc. Then I said “your bike looks new, and a full suspension so not cheap?” his response; “Ahh yes, it’s the 2014 model, so it has depreciated, is that the right word? It has depreciated in price, so I paid much less,” I stood there with a stupid look on my face nodding. I mean, I speak a little Italian, which extends to “I’m sorry, I only speak a little Italian, but I am learning” not a scratch on his “little” English he spoke!
The start of my second week involved me picking up my mate Otto from the airport in Rome. Otto and I know each other from my days in Pitlochry, Scotland and he runs a great little shop called Donaghy and Sanderson with another friend of mine – they are well worth a visit if you find yourself up that way. Okay, so the drive back from the airport is about 2 hours, then my sat nav decides she wants to mix things up a bit and send us via the back streets even though it’s 11pm at night and there is no traffic on the motorway. For those that don’t know, the roads here are a mess, they clearly don’t get maintained, this means you get shaken about quite a lot with the rather soft suspension on the Disco (Discovery). We are bobbing along and chatting, then as we turn a corner a family of Cinghiale decide that it’s a suitable time and place to cross the road. For those that don’t know, a Cinghiale is a wild boar, basically, a supersized, hard as nails hairy pig. Anyway, the hairy pigs decided to cross the road on a blind bend, which meant as I came around the corner I couldn’t avoid the hairy pig. I hit the breaks and somehow managed to clip the pig and then drive right over the top of it. Being a dog owner, animal lover and part time Buddhist, I wanted to stop and check it was okay. Luckily Otto stopped me with “mate, you really don’t want to get out the car if there is a p*ssed off wild boar out there”. So on we drove and when we got home we checked the car and there was no trace of Cinghiale. I like to think he was in the bar with his pals, boasting how he took on the English and won.
We finished the week at Simona Ceccherini’s winery, which is where my filming for Second Chance Summer ended. We arrived in the late afternoon with the mission to film Simona and be off, as we had to be up at 5am for Otto’s flight. As with all filming this was never going to be the case.
After we arrived I made a dash for the loo as we had been in the car a while. Otto stepped out of the car and as he shut the door, the car decided this was a good signal to lock all the doors…..with the keys in the ignition and Jackson in the back. Luckily and because I am vain, I had opened the back window a touch to get some air in the car and not ruin my hair for filming. I came out of the bathroom to see Otto with his arm wedged in the window trying to reach the lever to unlock the door. One, his arm is too chunky and two, you can’t open the door that way. Then Simona and her husband arrive to see us trying to get Giulia to reach in and open the window, this didn’t work either. Then Otto had the genius idea to use a broom handle and poke it through the window, so with some help from Samuele they hit the switch on the dashboard. Jackson was set free and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief, so we were saved by the fact I was worried about my hair….