As we prepare to leave our home in Grassina, it’s time to think back on our 4 weeks here – yes, it’s that long would you believe! – and provide some additional insights into this little place.
A bit about Grassina…
Grassina is a populated hamlet – about 10,000 people – of the municipality of Bagno a Ripoli in the metropolitan city of Firenze (Florence).
Grassina, as early as the beginning of the last century, was also known as the “place of the laundromat” given its proximity to two streams, the Grassina and the Ema . This allowed families to wash themselves and to clean the clothes of the wealthy Florentine families – the Florentine nobles sent their linen to Grassina to wash. The business of the launders grew and then people coming from the Piedmont region (when Firenze was the capital) asked their linen to be washed by the able washerwomen from Grassina. One of the most widespread images of Grassina at the end of the XIX century, was a candid expanse of sheets hung outside to dry in the sun.
Laundry rooms, closed in the 1960s due to the spread of washing machines, operated mainly in the historic district of Mestola, where the houses overlook the Grassina stream.
Even today in the historic houses you can see the instruments of the trade symbol of the fraction of Grassina. The core of the women’s activities was the chiassolo (little rumble, or square) on which the old people washed. The tools used were: the roads, the heaters, and the first washers, consisting of large cylinders in which were placed the washing cloths and the tanks, similar to baskets, which by using centrifugal force, dried the clothes. These instruments are the legacy of the last stage of laundry activity, of women and men who spent most of their kneeling time on the rivers of ash or soap rivers exposed to the weather. This laundry room also cared for the clean linen for returning to the city’s clientele, using wagons (“barges”) transported by mules or donkeys.
Lavandaia Monument is a statue located in Piazza Umberto – the main square. The full-size bronze statue represents a washerwoman in the act of washing the cloth.
Casa del Popolo (House of the People) of Grassina (Circle ARCI): founded in 1877, assumed in 1946 its current name. It has a bar, a billiard room, a multifunctional hall that can accommodate up to 400 people (Sport Room), an old movie theatre that is currently out, a large car park and a play area.
Near the village is the Fonte della Fata Morgana , built in the late sixteenth century by the Vecchietti family, in the park of its own villa and thought to have been used as a temporary camp site for laundry workers who went to Florence to return the goods.
Grassina is historically also known as the Chianti Gate, because of its geographical position, the last fraction included in the Florentine urban fabric and the beginning of the famous Via Chiantigiana – which goes down to the Chianti wine region.
At home near Grassina…
We have been staying in an apartment in a farmhouse in the Florentine hills, just 15 minutes (about 7km) away from the historical centre of Florence. It is surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and woods.
The recent restoration of the old farm house has maintained the original look of the country home, with high regard for using traditional local materials and safeguarding the colours of the Florentine hills to preserve the harmony between rural countryside and modern comfort.
The apartment (55 square metres) is located on the first floor (top) of the farmhouse. This floor is shared with the family (parents and children), whilst the grandfather lives downstairs. It has its own independent entrance and a master bedroom (with plenty of cupboard space and hangers), a living room with a lounge / sofa bed, a fully equipped kitchen (with table where we’ve enjoyed many a meal) and a bathroom with bathtub (that you have to climb 3 big stairs to reach!).
We have been very grateful for the shutters and air-conditioning in the apartment – with 40+ degree days and 25+ nights, we would have found it difficult to cope without. The air conditioning is only allowed to run for about 12 hours per day – midday to midnight – but using the shutters to keep the sun out during other times is of great help (even if a bit of a shock when we arrived as the place was so dark).
It has been awesome to be able to reach Florence easily – getting to museums, monuments, restaurants, bars and shops in a matter of minutes – but to come home to an oasis away from the traffic and fast pace of the city.
There is what we assume to be a function facility across the little valley. It has only disturbed the tranquillity twice – at midnight one Saturday night time and 11pm the following Sunday, we were entertained by a full-on fireworks display. The only other noises we hear are the dogs barking, the roosters crowing and the occasional alarm coming from a nearby property.
When we arrived after our long hot drive from Rome, we drove the 2km (mainly dirt road) down into Grassina in the hope of finding a supermarket for some food and more importantly some bottled water. But to no avail – even after a drive a bit further along the road to a neighbouring area (and a near miss with a guy on a scooter). Fortunately, we found one little pasticceria open in Grassina and bought supplies for an evening meal – bread, cheese and water. This was the start of our experience of things being shut for the Summer holidays (Ferragosto on 15 August leads to a similar downing of tools to what Christmas does in Australia).
About 7km south of us (as opposed to north which is Florence), is a little place called Impruneta. This is where we went the morning after our arrival – to find a bar / pasticceria for our first macchiato and brioche of the trip, walk around the old buildings and a little co-op (supermarket). Since then we have visited a couple of other small co-ops in the area and one HUGE one nearer Florence.
Unfortunately, having way too many mosquitoes has prevented us from spending as many hours as we’d like on the terrace for aperitivos (drinks) and meals. We’re convinced the bug spray that we bought attracts them! But we have still enjoyed our evenings sitting outside with a glass of wine / aqua frizzante (sparkling water) followed by a meal of pasta / seafood salad / veal salad. Yes, for those that know Walter, he IS eating salad! I even bought a basil plant and he’s loving that! I need to include the below picture…Glenda did an amazing job putting together this lovely pasta dish.
The person who owns the farm, Andrea, is a baker in Florence by night, farmer by afternoon / evening. So, whilst he’s toiling amongst the bamboo and olive trees below, and looking after the ducks on the dam, we are happily sipping on a Chianti Classico and chewing rucola (rocket).
With Ferie (what they call the Summer holidays), a lot of the shops in Grassina have been shut. We have been able to visit the local bars, which have pastries and coffee, but even the pasticcerias were shut some of the time, meaning we have missed out on some of the fresher breakfast pastries. We also haven’t been to any of the local restaurants or visited the little fruit / meat / fish places for food. Many of them have started opening up again this week, so there was a very different feel along the main street as we strolled along this morning in between coffees. It was nice to be able to pop into the little shops and browse. The hardware / home store is certainly somewhere we would’ve visited before had it been open – particularly when we were looking for wine glasses early on during our stay.
With a bit of luck, we may manage one of the local restaurants on our last night before we say goodbye to Grassina this weekend.
Arrivederci Grassina! Ciao Agricola Poderino! Grazie! A presto!