Driving down from Vicchio - a village in Mugello, at east from Florence, up in the mountains - yesterday, late afternoon, already dark, we were hit by the enlightened facade of a Sanctuary - at least we thought it was a Sanctuary - at our left, just above the road.
After a few second of driving, at the crossing road, we saw the sign "Pieve", which in Italian means "church in the country side".
With one of those sudden decision, Max and I decided, in a blink of a eye, to go and see it.
We followed the road, which is crossed by the railway, so that we had to wait for the train passage at the red light. It is a small train, that goes along the river, climbing up to the Mugello. Our little car behaved well, going up the steep to the Pieve.
We did not arrive to the end of the road, as in the dark we could not understand where the road was going. We stopped just beneath the wall over which we could see a large terrace with the church enlightened by a big lamp. All around was dark: it had been raining all day and the sky was still cloudy, the large trees manes were increasing the shade and the tall ancient walls were intimitating.
Max tried to park the car the least worse way he could do, on the side of the narrow path, almost bordering with a slippery slope. Another car came up and the man inside asked to Max to park a little more down so he could fit his car. So Max did.
Then we went up the steps toward the terrace at the level of the church. Which was closed .
We started to go around the walls, in the dark, following a weak light we saw coming out from a little window behind.
The building revealed to be enormous. We thought it must have been a monastery. Approaching to the window we heard a moderm disco music.
We were confused and we supposed: this used to be a monastery and now it is not more a religious building and it si used for feasts or meetings or stuff like that.
The man of the car was trying to open a little door at a few footsteps from us, so we asked him what was going on. He said that there was a dinner, but all the spaces were fully booked. Then the man disappeared into the little door.
We kept on walking along the tall ancient walls, rounded the corner. Both music and light had increased. We eyed from a window and this is what we saw:
Curious, we kept on walking toward the end of the wall, rounded another corner. We saw a large parking place on a nicely cut green field (this parking is at the end of the road, behind the monastery: if we only would have had the patience to drive up a for a few more seconds, our car would have found a better parking place....), a gazebo, the entrance door.
We entered, asking "permesso?" to ... the air, as nobody was caring about us..
Young women dressed with old fashioned clothes peasant style were walking inside bringing things: bottles, flowers, papers.
- Is this a private feast? - we asked
- Is there a catering supllying everything? - the two questions, or maybe more than two questons, were asked to the girls at the same time so that they did not find an immediate answer.
Finally we understood that we were in a monastery that had been remodeled and they were using the space with feasts for fund rising: the money was needed for a kinder garden.
Again Max and I looked at each other and in a blink of an eye we knew that it would have been nice to be able to stay.
- Can we partecipate?
- You'd better talk with Father Louis -
- Where can we find him? -
- He is around... doing things... I'll go look for him.-
Father Louis came: he was the man of the car.
He revealed immediately his gentle nature: he allowed us to visit the church, taking us inside if from the entrance of the priest at the altar.
We visited the refectory.
Father Louis, who is from Argentina, the country of the Pope, made us comfortable telling us to feel free to go around and visit the building. It used to be a monastery of the monks of Saint Francis. It is the convent of San Detole, a saint that does not exist: the name "Detole" seems to mean "Dito", that means "finger", as in the church it is saved a relic, one finger of San Biagio. Nowadays, for lack of vocations and of monks, the building is used by the diocesan administration and that he, Father Louis, is the priest of the parish church.
After a few minutes we were told that we could join the dinner.
So we paid our fee.
The eveing and the dinner have been extraordinary.
All the place gave us strong inner emotions. We had pleasant converstion with several nice people never met before; we set at a round table with a family. There were people of any age.
The tables were beautifully decorated with vegetable, candles and gifts of all the guests.
The tables were signed with the "tweets" of Pope Francesco. Ours was:
The food was simply excellent: all the dishes from Tuscan tradition, all of them made with first quality ingredients and well cooked. This was the menu
Crostini di fegatini alla Toscana
Crostoni coi fagioli
Pappardelle col ragù di coniglio
Trippa alla Fiorentina
Salsicce alla griglia
Patate al pomodoro
Frappe con Vin Santo
A convivial night, that left us the happy awareness that we live in a wonderful country and the good flavor of the nice, un-expected surprises.
Look well in the dark: there is always a welcoming light.