It’s harvest time in Tuscany so, of course, that means it’s time to pile preschoolers into a caravan of parents’ cars and drive them to the countryside for a morning of olive picking!
Okay, that may not be what springs immediately to your mind, but that is exactly what we did today. The family of one of Lulu’s classmates at Maria Bianca Bianchini school has a home set atop a rolling hill surrounded by cypress, chestnuts – and hundreds of olive trees. Lulu, her best friend Allegra, and about 50 other screaming, er, enthusiastic kids descended upon the beautiful place.
It was sunny and only slightly brisk as the children gathered to hear from Helena’s Babbo, or daddy, about how the picking would be done. It was our first time, so I paid close attention. That, and my Italian is still really bad.
Large, rectangular nets are first spread under the trees.
Then the men, and later some of the more adventurous kids, stretched long-handled plastic rakes high into the trees, to scrape the olives loose.
As olives fell down upon their heads, children scrambled under the trees grabbing them up, careful not to step on them and smash them, and then tossed them in their cestini, or baskets.
The fun and confusion reminded me of an Easter egg hunt – only with tiny black and green eggs that rained down on the hunters.
In spite of all the chaos, the kids actually managed to successfully harvest half a dozen large plastic bin-fulls.
And had a lot of fun at the same time.
And afterward, the school’s cook treated the small hunters to a snack of pane con olio¸or bread with – what else – olive oil?
Under the bright blue skies and the warm Tuscan sun, it was truly wonderful. And as I looked at Lulu and Allegra running near the small chapel that was attached to the family’s ancient stone home, I imagined what it must be like to have to spend hours of serious bending under trees, tip-toeing on nets, getting pelted with falling olives and reaching high up into the branches to harvest olives for a living.
I was thankful that this morning was one of those lovely, “once in a lifetime” experiences.
P.S. Ever picked olives? How about strawberries? What was it like and how happy are you that you did it because you wanted to, not because you had to!?!