Podere La Regola

by Daniela Cicchetta 

The two brothers entered the side door of the barrel cellar, but the Maestro did not hear them, his eyes closed and a brush in his hand. In the middle of the wall, an entirely blackened wall, he had just begun to turn thought into vibration.
Somnium…” he repeated, like a Tibetan mantra bouncing on the walls, revealing drawings yet to be traced. “Somnium…”, as dancing patterns of imaginary constellations appeared, a universe of indivisible units, constantly transmigrating from one life to another. “Somnium…” he whispered one last time, then opened his eyes and resumed painting the great planet of Humanity.
On that sound, from deep within the cellar, the massive shape of a man appeared, proceeding in the dark, a candle in his hand. He was wearing a pleated ruff from the early 1600s, a lavish shirt and puffy pants shoved inside the boots’ ample cuffs.
The man walked slowly, looking around, his beard combed and a long mustache hiding a big smile caused by the expressions of the two brothers, their curiosity seeping through their bright eyes.
Flavio and Luca were looking at each other in disbelief.
The man walked to them and bowed, leaning forward stiffly, his left foot positioned slightly behind the rest of his body. “Johannes Kepler, honored to make your acquaint…” but he didn’t finish the sentence as he was suddenly drawn to the painting on the wall. “That’s what Earth looks like from the Moon!” he pointed at the drawing with the enthusiasm of a child, reaching from behind the Maestro’s shoulders. He then tilted his head and touched with curious fingers one of the many faces that were taking shape on a huge white sphere: “We look at the world from the Earth, but that’s not the only perspective” and lifted a hand to stroke his beard.
The man looked just like ‘that’ Kepler, his features well known, as depicted in astronomy and calculus books. The brothers almost couldn’t believe it, but then he, as well, said the word “Somnium…” followed by a blissful smile, a satisfied smile, his eyes closed and his arms to the sky.
“That’s exactly what Earth looks like from the Moon!” he repeated emphatically, as if he knew them.
Flavio looked at him with stupor and replied: “Whatever do you mean… Kepler?” ending his question with a cough.
“I’m talking about the infinite meaning of sight relativity. What we see changes depending on the position of the observer. I spoke of this in the ‘Somnium’, my book. It came out only after I died, since no one had taken me seriously before then. I also fantasized about a path connecting Moon and Earth that one could travel during an eclipse. What I really wanted was just to support the Copernican system demonstration”. He shrugged and sighed, perhaps still disappointed.
In the meantime, the Maestro kept painting without noticing anything.
The voices didn’t seem to have bothered him. Luca tried to touch him but he couldn’t feel anything.
“He can’t hear you” said an imperious voice all of a sudden from behind their backs. It belonged to a middle-aged man wearing some sort of peplum dress and a mantle with a hem underneath his right arm and the rest thrown on his left shoulder. Old leather shoes with a sharp tip pointing upwards had allowed him to approach the others stealthily. When he reached them, he bowed his head and placed a tight fist on top of his heart.
“Today is April 23rd, the Vinalia celebration, sacred for the Etruscans.
It is dedicated to Fufluns, son of Semia” the man pointed out, as if it was something completely normal, “and I have come to taste the new wine!” and with that he held his cup with both hands. He then got distracted, lured in by those faces that, under the Maestro’s skillful hands, were starting to take shape on the great planet of Humanity.
Flavio and Luca looked at each other, slightly concerned. What was happening was surreal: they had found themselves in their barrel cellar with ‘that’ Kepler and an ancient Etruscan with a terracotta cup in his hands, a kylix like those displayed at the Guarnacci Museum in Volterra. They closed their eyes for a second and when they reopened them they found large smiles on the two men’s faces.
“Is all of this real?” asked Flavio in disbelief, blinking a few times.
“I come from the village of Belora, near here, and if you can see me and hear me, then you’ve got your answer” stated the Etruscan with the hint of a smile on his lips. “Why do you need to understand? The path of the soul is a timeless one, a continuous renewal, and its awakening concerns all of us. After all, we are what we can dream”.
“But how is it possible that we understand each other while belonging to different eras and speaking different languages… how are we communicating?” asked Flavio.
“With our minds, or if you prefer with our soul, the timeless soul, as this one just said.” Kepler intervened, illuminating with his flickering candle the six dancing figures and the small monads on the perimeter walls, one by one.
“Even the planets are pushed along their orbits by the driving force the sun unleashes, that same sun warming the grape destined to become wine. All is linked. All is one”.
“What you’re seeing represents the cosmic dance guarding the planet and the sleeping barriques” Flavio said.
“We love our land and whenever we pick our grapes we transform them but maintain their essence. All the faces the Maestro is drawing have their eyes closed, a religious silence cradling the wine along his path. They represent mankind looking within itself”.
The Etruscan smiled pleased and added, nodding: “In this very place, right where your cellar is, and with that same philosophy, I used to be a master winemaker. My parents taught me the craft: they were not only warriors, but skilled winemakers as well.
For us Etruscans there was no line between wine and spirituality. We would use it to celebrate both love and death.”
He then gestured something with his hands, trying to draw in the air what he was telling us: “Our vine was shaped like a little tree… this tall! And the plants were surrounded by hedges, to protect them from the animals at pasture. Here, next to the Cecina waters, grapes can ripen properly since the soil is full of fossils, and the valley temperate climate is just what it needs… but I’m sure you know all of this! We picked ripe grapes, crushed them and let them rest in terracotta amphorae, and not in wood as you do now.
Fermentation occurred between five and eight days and the resulting nectar had such an intense taste that we needed to add water in order to drink it… but it was really good, still retaining the scent of the sea”.
“Now, though, try this one” said Luca, opening a bottle of red that immediately let out a balsamic whiff, so intense it inebriated everyone there, forcing those present to close their eyes, just like the faces the Maestro was painting.
The Etruscan came closer with his ancient cup, Flavio handed out three balloon glasses and Luca poured the wine.
“Now, let us wait a while. It hasn’t finished its sleep yet, we have just woken it up.
It ferments in vats and becomes refined in these French oak barriques for eighteen months. It stays in bottles for at least twelve more months” Luca suggested.
“That is true” Flavio continued, “it needs time. Everything here follows the rhythms of nature, in synergy and symbiosis with the land and the planet.
We believe wine is one of those emotional pleasures that can remove negativity and solve all problems”.
Kepler used his candle to illuminate one of the dancing figures. There seemed to be an infinite number of small figures coming out of the heart, expanding throughout the universe, almost symbolizing the cycle of rebirth.
All four remained still, enchanted, while the wine scent flowed through them, their senses, fueling that surreal conversation and taking them in a journey without time.
“What is the name of this red nectar?” the Etruscan asked.
La Regola, just like our cellar” answered Luca, his voice cracking with emotion.
“It’s so purple, so deep, almost black” Kepler added, observing it with the flame as a backlight.
“Strong notes of ripe red fruit, of  plum, red currant, blackberry and a hint of vanilla and light spices” expertly suggested Luca, sniffing it deeply, one nostril at a time.
“Yes! It’s structured, soft in the mouth, with a distinct but not invasive tannin” uttered Flavio after bringing it to his lips with a certain pride.
“Gentlemen, let us drink to the Vinalia, and to April 23rd!” the Etruscan proposed, with a lively tone in his voice.
“To Humanity!” Kepler exclaimed, raising his glass high.
“Yes, but to nature as well, to its fruits, to the essence of life, to the soul, to art…” added Flavio. “… and to La Regola!” said Luca, completing the sentence.
All of a sudden their voices were overpowered by a hiss:
They turned around. The Maestro Stefano Tonelli had laid down his brushes and was looking at them with a smile on his lips. With his head down, he moved his joint hands from the face to the heart.
They all started to dissolve, as the wine in the barrel cellar went back into its Somnium.

(♫ by Francesco Landucci, “Le Anfore Etrusche”)