Shepherd’s Feast celebrating the Arrival of the Sheep at Potentino and the Cultural Traditions of the ‘ Transumanza’
Potentino has been working with the cheesemakers Francesca and Lorenzo from Caseificio Murceti for a few years now and some of you will have enjoyed their pecorino and cheese-making demonstrations.
Our first connection happened as I had been desperately seeking ricotta – real ricotta which they really do make. Most of what you find these days commercially is not technically ricotta as cream or milk is put into the mix for larger yields. Sheep’s cheese is generally much lighter and easier to digest so tortelli made with this false ricotta is just basically stodgy instead of delicate and exquisite. Murceti use their own milk from the flock they tend and natural methods based their family’s traditions - unlike many other producers who buy in foreign milk or curds and use chemical coagulants. Shepherds in Italy have been tipping their milk on the roads in protest recently at low prices created by industrial production and importation.
The sheep is not a lowly beast at all - it is historically considered to be one of the most important elements in the development of the human race. Cheese, wool – clothes to keep us warm – food when we travelled with the flock to find new pastures. You really could not move if you did not have your sheep. When you settled they processed the grass into food for you as well as providing yarn for weaving into tents or sacks for food transport. Lovely felt as well – the wool from our flock which we are making into hats is really beautiful and you can still see the little seeds and burs that got stuck in the fleece when the sheep were grazing in the textile.
So we have decided to celebrate the arrival of the sheep at the Castle with a Shepherds Feast and amazingly enough, I discovered when I doing some research that Potentino was on one of the old migration routes from the mountains to the coast known as ‘tratturi’. These had a legal status and began to be regulated by the Etruscans and Romans. It is likely that the property was a ‘bandita’ or a customs area where sheep were counted and taxed. It is notoriously difficult to count sheep so I am sure there were lots of shenanigans with cunning or ‘la furbezza’ on all sides.
We also would like to pay tribute to all the shepherds who are currently fighting to defend their way of life, their knowledge, their animals and their culture by introducing more people to the realities of the pastoral world.
Helena Attlee’s latest book Lev’s Violin: An Italian adventure was published last year and broadcast as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’. Her bestselling The Land Where Lemons Grow: The story of Italy and its citrus fruit has been translated into several languages and won the Guild of Food Writers’ Book of the Year 2015.
Julian Evans is the author of the acclaimed biography Semi-Invisible Man: The life of Norman Lewis and Transit of Venus: Travels in the Pacific. He has presented radio and TV documentaries, reported from central Europe and written about the war in Ukraine from the frontline.
Saturday 10 September
Arrive in good time to settle in before meeting the tutors and other writers for an aperitivo followed by dinner
Sunday 11 September
Using our senses as a way of expressing experiences and connecting to readers, we explore rooting our writing in the physical
world to bring it alive
Activity: Walking the Potentino valley with a local botanist
Sensory writing Aperitivo and dinner at castle
Monday 12 September
Today is about building skills to commit real people to the page, using their appearance, body language, behaviour and other closely observed details
Activity: Visit to the local market
Free time for lunch in local town
Workshop: Writing people, their settings and voices
Aperitivo and dinner at castle
Tuesday 13 September
We focus on framing a process or an event to make it interesting to anyone, even to those not specifically interested in it
Activity: Local shepherds making ricotta cheese, followed by cheese tasting
Workshop: Finding the universal strand
Tasting the wines of Potentino with Charlotte Horton, followed by dinner with Rachel Roddy
Wednesday 14 September
Today is led by Rachel Roddy, acclaimed author, Italian food expert and Guardian columnist
Activity: Learning to make pasta with Rachel in Potentino’s 13th-century kitchen
Lunch is home-made pasta –
Workshop: Armed with our
flour-covered notes and thoughts, we will talk and do three generative
exercises. We’ll also look at strategies for writing about food and practical tips for recipe writing, and to conclude will talk about how to find a sustainable, enjoyable writing process and how to balance messy creativity with structure, form – and dinner
Feedback session with Rachel, Helena and Julian
Aperitivo and ‘Getting published’, a question-and-answer session with Derek Johns, drawing on his career as an editor, publisher and leading
Dinner at castle
Thursday 15 September
On the final day we take you through a series of invaluable techniques for revising and polishing your work
Workshop: Ultimate editing: putting it all together
Free time to work on your writing
Celebration and sharing of your work
Dinner at a local restaurant
Friday 16 September
[We reserve the right to make changes to this timetable if necessary]
“Julian and Helena worked beautifully together in creating a transformative learning experience. Taking part has raised my standard of what I expect from my writing dramatically”
“I came to Potentino without an agenda, but I leave Potentino inspired to share my stories”
“Thank you both so much for a wonderful experience. I appreciate all your knowledge, generosity and hard work”
Board and lodging at Castello di Potentino
All sessions with Julian and Helena
Pasta-making Workshop and talk with Rachel Roddy
"Behind the scenes in publishing" discussion with Derek Johns
Trips for planned excursions
Last night's dinner at a local restaurant
What's not included
Transfers to and from Potentino (can be booked as an extra)
Meals on planned excursions
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