A medieval village and its fine people, a tasting of selected local wines, jazz music, samplings of local products, folk music, breathtaking scenery, streets and white stone buildings that reflect the moon. All this on the night of Chalices in the Village in Gavignano.
Faced with such excellence, the only question that comes to mind is which wine is better suited to jazz and which to saltarello (that traditional rapid rhythmic dance). Is it better to listen to jazz with a prosecco, a cool white wine or a full-bodied red? Because jazz is certainly more for drinking and dancing after dinner, continuing well into the night.
This magic experience occurs every year in Gavignano for a limited number of people who can get into the old village. The streets and alleys come alive with fine wine tasting and local products, accompanied by different groups of musicians who perform in the two squares and terraces overlooking the Sacco Valley.
It is of those evenings that enter the bloodstream and leave you a lifetime memory. Everything is memorable: the village, the selection of wines and the musical notes which highlight the different moods. But let’s go one step at a time.
First there is Gavignano, a town that occupies the top of a hill and a spur. The Old Town is like a ‘stretched eye’ and is not accessible to cars. You enter through a doorway and walk in alleys and up stone stairs that have a special charm. There are none of the bricks of Tuscany, here the poetry of the past is different. White stones: drier and true to its soul.
The streets and houses, in fact, are made with local white limestone, sometimes worked with some inserts of dark volcanic stone, and the final effect is that of a total immersion in medieval history.
A little of that history. One of the most interesting popes in papal history was born here, Pope Innocent III, who had to accept the moral reform of St. Francis and the independence of the English barons with the Magna Charta at the time of King John. On these paths walked the king of Poland who studied scientific culture in the first half of the eighteenth century.
And then there is the wine selected by experts who choose small niche productions, mostly local wines but also from other specialty Italian areas. The tour starts with a prosecco, continues with whites and you finally get to full-bodied reds. A crescendo accompanied by samplings of products selected for the quality and the care with which they were produced.
The third element: music has always been an integral part of the magic of the evening, and the notes and chords spread out along the alleys bouncing from one stone to another, house to house. Since the first edition, the festival has been joined by Gavignano ‘Parquaria’, which in local dialect means ‘meeting’, a folk music group that took up the traditions of the salterello and ballads.
They come from Montelanico, a few kilometres into the hills, and for many years have come together to rediscover the traditions. One cannot but be overwhelmed by their power and joy. The ‘saltarello’ dance is much more effective than the ‘taranta’ and your legs cannot but follow the rhythm, feet just do not manage to stay attached to the ground and begin to ‘jump’.
If your hands do not go to your hips and you do not start to follow the fast rhythms, then you have problems.
Now, Jazz is different. The night is long, jazz prepares you for what is coming. It combines with the moon and with the thoughts that drift among the distant lights of the valley. It goes deep into the soul.
Now you have to make an important decision. To match the fresh white wine with jazz or the ‘salterello’? Do you dance better with the red?
I have decided! Begin with the Prosecco bubbles to prepare the atmosphere and start the evening with a joyful toast. Then a red wine that can be enjoyed sipping from the glass held in the hand while strolling and listening to jazz. I try to recognize the towns of the valley and I reflect on the beauty of life. A fresh white wine and then a dance before another to refresh.
And as the night flows, I will try to understand what the king of Poland was doing in this jewel of the country, and if ever he danced in the streets to the sound of musicians of that time.
How much magic there is in these combinations of emotions that satisfy the mind, the heart and the belly!
Picture by Fernando Conti.