Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Figs, Olives, Grapes, and Other Italian Plants

This may be one of the longest blog posts in internet history, so here goes...

Recently I was lucky enough to take an 8-day trip to Italy.  I visited Rome, Florence, Tuscany, and many other small towns in between. Saw all the major sights, enjoyed unbelievable food, and had a great time.  What surprised me most (aside from the entire experience) was the abundance of fig trees, citrus, olives, grapes, and other beautiful plants scattered all over the country, not just in the vineyards of Tuscany.  Figs were literally growing out of stone and marble walls in Rome.  The following umpteen hundred pictures show the landscape and these plants:

Massive fig tree near the Spanish Steps in Rome.  This tree is about 25-feet tall and begins growing down the hill from where I took this photo.
Well manicured garden in Vatican City with very large potted citrus. Unfortunately you can't access this garden. I snapped this picture from inside the Vatican.
Multi-trunk fig tree growing directly across the street from the Colosseum.  There were a few of these within a couple hundred yards of each other.  
Fig tree (just right of center) in the Roman Forum.
Fig tree in the Roman Forum from a different angle.
Same fig tree in the Forum from a 3rd angle.
Smaller branching fig tree growing from the rocks near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
Orange trees lining the street in central Rome.  I took this pic from my hotel room on the 4th floor.  They grew large and healthy all over the city.  And of course everything within arm's reach was already plucked and devoured.
Vineyard at the 16th century Castello d'Albola in Tuscany.  They produce acclaimed Chianti and Cab Sauv, as well as sublime olive oil.
More neatly pruned and trellised grapes at Castello d'Albola in Tuscany.
Olive trees near Radda in Chianti.  Famers were in the process of pruning the olive trees and burning the cuttings.  You could see and smell small plumes of smoke all over the countryside.
More olive trees.
Even more olive trees.
Approximately 20-foot tall fig trees at Radda in Chianti, Tuscany.
A close-up of the same fig tree in Radda.  I don't know what type of fig it is, but it was easily the most dense and multi-branched fig tree I've ever seen.  Hard to imagine enough light would reach the interior of the tree to ripen figs in the summer.
The fig tree is located right by the road.  You could easily harvest ripe figs from your car in the summer.
I spotted this beautiful blooming tree at a local ceramic maker's shop in Tuscany.  I couldn't figure out what it was until I saw the remnants of the previous year's bounty on the ground beneath the tree.  Almonds!
Almond blossoms. Bees were buzzing about the tree pollinating the flowers.
More almond blossoms clustered together with the ceramic shop in the background.
Grape vines across the street and up the hill from the ceramic shop.  Trellised vines as far as the eye could see, all over the countryside.
I don't know hold old these vines are.  They were not the youngest or oldest vines I saw, but were probably somewhere in the middle.
They prune the vines to maintain growth and productivity.
Close-up of recently pruned grape vine.
The skyline of the small medieval town of San Gimignano in the provence of Siena, Tuscany.  It was a cold and cloudy day.  Note the very large fig tree in the lower left-hand corner of the picture.  
Close-up of the large fig tree in San Gimignano.  Note the old wooden ladder leaning against the trunk of the tree.  I wish I was there in the summer to climb the ladder and sample the fresh figs.
I hope you made it to the end of this post without being bored out of your mind.  Yes, the art, architecture, and culture of Italy are out of this world.  But at the same time, the variety and abundance of plants nestled within this historic setting are no less impressive and equally as beautiful.


Anonymous said...

Lovely photos and prose. What a beautiful countryside.

Thanks for the tour.


Sybil Mays said...

Ditto! I enjoyed every photo!

Thad said...

That is truly lovely country! My wife and I recently toured many of those same cities (Radda in Chianti was the closest city of any size near our rented accommodation). The wine and olive oil from that region is easily some of the best in the world ... especially from some of the lesser-known family run vineyards!

Here are some of the details from our trip (unfortunately, something has gone wrong with my online galleries): http://www.rtp3.com/blog/tag/italy

.09 Acres said...

Thad, looking forward to seeing your Italy pics as soon as I'm done here on the blog. Thanks for sharing. It's an amazing country.