This article first appeared in the October 2012 issue of the award-winning subscription travel newsletter Dream of Italy
By Walter Sanders
While staying at Villa Pipistrelli just south of Siena, our group visited nearby Stigliano. We were on a mission: to learn how make fresh pasta from scratch. Our teachers were two older women from the village. They were beautiful, gracious and patient. Pasta-making rookies began combining ingredients, and our enthusiasm was evident despite beaten eggs leaking from collapsed flour walls.
With the help of our lovely mentors, everyone finished their dough and formed it into a ball. All the balls were kneaded together, then rolled flat, cut, stuffed, trimmed and transformed into ravioli.
The site was La Bottega di Stigliano, a combination retail shop—specializing in locally produced agricultural products—and a restaurant. The building was a former casa del popolo, a people’s house where in olden times farm workers would meet to sell products. The casa also served as a social center. It was, in a sense, a one-stop shop where people could fill their baskets with food and make social connections.
A gentleman from the local agricultural cooperative told us that the pressures of modern Italian society now force some Italians to fill their baskets via one-stop shopping for “food, light bulbs and bath soap” at urban supermarkets. His organization is trying to reinvigorate the notion of local produce available at nearby markets, at competitive prices, like the old casa del popolo concept. “We’re trying to put the past into the present,” he concluded.
We climbed upstairs to share a lunch featuring our ravioli, and a wealth of other dishes. I stood and spoke in Italian on behalf of our visiting group.
“Good afternoon, everyone. We have enjoyed meeting you, and have enjoyed your wonderful food and wine. Thank you for your skill and generosity.”
“But I must say something very important.”
Another dramatic pause.
“I…am…in…love…with these two beautiful women who showed us how to make pasta.” I took the ladies by their hands and gently pulled them up to stand. I kissed them on their cheeks, and everyone laughed and clapped.
La Bottega di Stigliano
Piazza di Stigliano n.62, Loc. Stigliano, Sovicille, Siena