(October 29, 2015) Every week, I catch a ride with Paola and Leonardo to a small produce shop outside Bevagna, where produce of all kinds costs only €1 per kilo—a very good price, and the fruit and vegetables are sold directly from the producer. Apples and peaches are in huge bins on pallets, and we choose our fruit with a gloved hand (no one touches fruit here—disposable gloves are provided in markets everywhere). After a quick weight on the big scale and our payment, we are usually on our way back to Spello.
This time, I asked to be let out of the car when I saw that several huge tractors were lined up pulling full bins of just-harvested grapes to deliver to the winery, just beside the produce shop. I asked permission to come into the yard and take photos, and watched as the overflowing bins were backed up and dumped into a big reservoir full of grapes.
As I watched, a huge spiral screw about two feet in diameter was turning, slowly pulling the grapes inside the building, out of sight, and off to processing to be cleaned and then pressed for their juice for winemaking.
I caught up to Leonardo and Paola in the produce shop, which we found was closing for the fall—their harvests were completed, and they had only potatoes and onions for sale. The peaches, apples and plums we normally purchased were all sold—and so we left empty-handed.
On the outside of the shop was a brilliant Virginia creeper vine, in full fall color display. I asked the name, wondering if it was called by the same name here in Italy, but it was not. Instead, it’s called “American vine,” and I found out later (when I pruned some back from my patio fence) that many, including me, are very allergic to the milk that drips from these cut vines. When I came up with painful blisters that resolved, but left permanent scars, it took only a description of the blisters for an Italian friend, who immediately asked if I had come into contact with “American vine,” which I had. No more, though—the consequences were much worse than poison oak, for me.
If not going home with a new supply of fruit fresh from the grower, at least I got to watch the grapes arriving from the vineyards to the winery, and watch them disappear into the plant for processing. I’ve never quite caught a grape harvest here (a “vendemmia”), but that was close enough, for now.