The first coat of calce (lime-wash paint) is diluted to the consistency of milk. As I slosh it on to the walls it streams down my arms and splashes on my feet. It barely covers the newly finished plaster in a thin pale wash. This is the ‘primo mano’ or undercoat in pure chalk white.
The idea of calce is that it breathes.
I love that idea, a house with a soul and walls that breathe.
After the primo mano you can choose a colour, if you wish, to add to the chalk base. You are given a tin of pigment, which you mix in, and the broken colour is achieved in 3 coats each diluted to a lesser degree with water. The end result is a colour that appears to move in and out of its own intensity, changing with the light and the undulations of the walls. Well, that’s the aim anyway.
Since I first visited Italy, years ago, I have been infatuated with its colours; the warm rosy apricots and rich terracottas of the peeling stucco in the piazzas. Faded frescos with the soft tinctures of the Renaissance, ghosts of vivid lapis blues and true clear reds.
In the countryside, the ever-changing grey green olives and inky dark cypresses stand against the ripened gold of wheat. And the land itself, its ploughed and fallow fields with great clods of soil like raw siena, the fertile colour of earth.
In the cavernous warehouse where we have come to buy the paint I feel suddenly nervous, almost overwhelmed by colour, but I know I haven’t come this far to paint yet another stark white wall, so I hold my breath and choose…
The best thing I ate;
Bruschette con pomodorini e ricotta or (less romantically) tomatoes on toast!
I have been making these a lot recently. They are great for lunch but even better as the sun sinks behind the hills, served with a gently fizzing glass of chilled prosecco. I think it is the intense tomato taste of summer, the piquant edge of the peperoncino, or maybe the mellow sweetness of the balsamic contrasting with the crumbling cool ricotta that really gets me. Enough already! Just try it.
cherry tomatoes (about 30)
Balsamic vinegar (1 and a half tablespoons)
Extra virgin olive oil
A peperoncino chopped really finely
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Country bread sliced about 1cm thick
Fresh ricotta cheese (try and get the good stuff made of sheep’s milk from the deli counter)
Leave the tomatoes whole and put them in an ovenproof dish and spread them out in a single layer. Season them with a little salt and pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil and half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Roast them in a hot oven for about 10 minutes or until the skins have burst and the juices started to caramelise. Take them out of the oven and add the peperoncino, then add another tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and stir gently to mingle the flavours.
Meanwhile, slice your bread and toast it on a hot griddle until it is crisp on both sides. Rub each slice a couple of times with a cut glove of garlic. Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt.
To assemble your bruschette, spoon the tomatoes on to the toasted bread and top with a little ricotta. Serve on a large white platter with some torn basil strewn around.