• Dawn Cumming

It seems that around every corner in Tuscany there is something of beauty to see no matter how simple it may appear. I love to capture the simple essence of Tuscany whether it be in the detail of an old knarled olive trunk, work worn tools, ancient stone walls........... the list could on and on.

I take lots of photographs using my i phone but I always make sure that when I see something of interest I really look at it first with my eyes before just tapping the 'photo' button. I like to think of it as though I am going to paint what I see before me , although in reality I am no artist. Firstly I consider whether what I see would make a pleasing composition. I observe the details of colour, light, texture and form. I guess this is the art historian in me since I am trained to see detail. Beauty can be found in everything, you just need to know how to look.

  • Dawn Cumming

I would like to share with you some simple Tuscan pleasures that I enjoy during the summer months. First and foremost is of course just the privilege to be in Tuscany and to stay at our little Tuscan abode up in the hills above Bagni di Lucca. There is nothing more satisfying than throwing open the shutters and flooding the house with some well deserved light and air after the cooler days of spring. It is quite impossible to describe the views from the windows but trust me when I say that they are so incredibly beautiful with verdant green enveloping the hills all around and a sliver of silver river to be seen at their foot. Days begin with the crowing of a cockerel at Dawn and end with majestic sunsets.

In the month of June the intoxicating scent of jasmine carries heavily in the light summer breeze and even finds its way inside our house. It is a delight to savour its fragrance.

In July bright yellow sunflowers make me feel happy and I long to stay here forever.

On those days when the heat from the sun becomes too intense it is a relief to walk in the shade of the ancient chestnut woods. It is even more of a relief to visit somewhere such as San Pellegrino in Alpe where it is possible to enjoy cooler temperatures.

It is always wonderful to see our kind-hearted Tuscan neighbours and friends. Our neighbour Giuseppina always treats us to some of her delicious home cooking. No-one makes torta di riso as good as she does!

I become quite a domestic goddess myself when I am in Tuscany and really make the most of using all the fresh fruits that grow abundantly during the summer months. Jam making is the order of the day.

A welcome sight in August are the cardboard boxes and crates of bright red tomatoes that line the doorsteps of houses in the village in readiness for the annual passata making.

If like me, you are forever losing your keys then did you know that there is a Saint you can call upon to help you. Saint Zita of Lucca (1212-1272) is the protectress of the city and patron Saint of domestic servants, she can also be invoked to help find lost keys. Zita was born in the village of Monsagrati near Lucca. At the age of 12 Zita became a servant in the household of the Fatinelli family in Lucca where she worked until her death in 1272. During her working life Zita helped to provide food for the poor by stealing leftover bread from her employer and many miracles are associated with her. Legend has it that one day her master stopped her and asked to look at what she had hidden in her apron (which was of course, was the bread she was taking to the poor). Miraculously the bread she had been carrying in her apron had been transformed into flowers.

Today her mummified remains lie within a glass coffin in the church of San Frediano in Lucca. In April every year the piazza in front of this church and that of the nearby amphitheatre are filled with flowers in honour of the feast day of Santa Zita on the 27th April.

Although Santa Zita was a Saint of Lucca, her cult actually spread to England from the early 14th century until the mid 16th century where she was known as Saint Sitha. The cult of Santa Zita was brought to England by merchants, pilgrims, travellers and via immigration. Many images of Saint Sitha can be found in England and include some wonderful 15th century wall paintings in Oxfordshire (see photo from St.Etheldreda, Horley). Saint Sita is usually represented in art with her attributes of keys and household utensils.