Fireflies and picnics in Romagna - how 12 US visitors enjoyed a surprisingly magical day
It looked like tomorrow was going to be fine so we suggested at dinner that our clients may like to have stroll in the valley and a picnic. The suggestion was received with great enthusiasm so now we had to do the work!
When you're organising a picnic everything depends on the weather - you have little time to prepare. So, with only 12 hours notice, we told our clever friends at the Michelin-rated restaurant Dei Cantoni to prepare something local and seasonal for a picnic. Then it was down to us to scout out a particular place in the valley that had a special seasonal plus.
The cherry blossom was in bloom so Tamara and I went to the heart of the ancient cherry valley where we knew there was a lovely spot to check out not too far away for a gentle stroll.
When we got to the tiny little ancient valley church, I told Tamara that I had been there a year ago when my friend Roberta organised an enchanting evening with music and poetry and of course food and wine to see the millions of fireflies.
At that moment, as if by magic a big 4wd vehicle screamed to a halt - it was Roberta. "Hello, what are you doing here" she said. We told her that we wanted to bring our 12 US tourists to the valley the next day. We wondered if Mr Calandrini would let them wander in his beautiful garden and if Dom Fernando would mind if we used his church. "Of course" said Roberta - 'And I have the keys to the church!" OK job done, we only had to check out the walking route all would be organised.
Next day dawned bright and scented (the Jasmine and the Limes were getting into their seasonal scented stride). My job was to collect the picnics and take them to the heart of the valley, by the church. Tamara collected Miss (her gentle horse) and walked her to the starting point for our ramble so she could guide our visitors down into the valley. This takes some time because everybody wants to pass the time of day with Miss!
Plus, we knew that nobody would be punctual today - the afternoon before we'd taken our guests for a wine tasting and they had been enjoying the sensational wines whilst watching the amazing sunset on the Jasmine-scented terrace of Casa Grilli. Marisa, the owner, had joined in the fun and made plates and plates of home-cooked delicacies to enjoy with the wine.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the restaurant - the owner/chef Danilo and his daughter Sabrina were hard at work packing and chopping and bagging up the picnics. They had both come in early to prepare something very special.
As I staggered to my car with the big box, Sabrina caught me up - "You've forgotten this" - she said. Aha - the menu! They had prepared sandwiches made of breads (baked that morning by Sabrina) of special flour and live yeast. Within the sandwiches - fresh field herb salad, tomatoes, asparagus and roasted rabbit. Sabrina had also baked focaccia bread and filled it with Squacquerone (very fresh local cheese), caramelized figs and rucola. There was, of course, a dessert - strawberries with fresh pineapple and in another container - a crumble made of Italian flour - to place on top of the dessert. Naturally there were a few bottles of delicious local Sangiovese wine to quaff with the picnic. I felt sure that our guests would be satisfied!
There was another surprise awaiting for me at the little church in the valley when I arrived with the picnic. Roberta and her daughter Nicole were hard at work mowing the church lawn so it would look a beautiful setting. They had already cleaned out the inside of the church so it was sparkling and naturally they had lit candles. Outside they had cleaned the old wooden table and put a tablecloth on it, set it with fresh flowers. For an extra flourish - Roberta had baked an enormous fabulous fruit flan as a gift.
And when our guests arrived, complete with Miss Horse, it soon became the epitome of a country picnic picture. What a luxury they enjoyed - rest and peace in the sun away from all the pressures of life.
They sat and talked, ate some fabulous food, drank some great wine and explored Mr Calandrini's superb garden. And then they walked back to their lovely Italian country house accommodation at Aloggio San Girolamo and at Casa Grilli just in time for another glorious sunset, more extraordinary wine - and, of course aperitivo snacks specially prepared by Marisa!
Everyone enjoyed a day of perfect peace that will be remembered for many years. Something different, something special, a real personal experience of kindly, thoughtful hospitality! It's certainly an antidote to stress.
Other group surprises have included visits to artisan fashion factories, local sculptures, visits to ceramicists by invitation only events and many many more…
And there is so much more to discover in Romagna HERE
More info: http://www.BestofRomagna.com
Are you a travel agent or group organiser? Find out about recently launched small group 2019 FAM trip program http://www.totemtourism.com/agent-fam-visits.html