Pietro Tomassini: Vino di Visciole


by Sarah Matz

The ancient stone steps lead deep beneath the house.  A refreshing blast of cold air sweeps by, and a musty cherry perfume fills the dark cellar.Pietro alone on a mountaintop.

Wood scraps, tools and maturing bottles of vino di visciole sleep in dusty crevasses. Wild pig hangs in a tall wooden cupboard. Crafted with chicken wire to protect the meat from flies, the cupboard releases a sweet-but-putrid scent. 

The odds and ends within Pietro Tomassini’s cellar reveal his role in a centuries-old, winemaking tradition in Italy. While he is a radiology technologist by trade, his true talent is connecting time and people through knowledge, history and visciole.

Pietro is a lifelong resident of Cagli. Although retired, he serves on a local educational board that recruits scholars to speak to the community. The speaker’s present information, read poetry and debate current events. As a founding member of the program, Pietro believes promoting culture is an important aspect of bringing people together. He says it’s a way for people to hear new ideas.

Pietro is a philosopher of cultural traditions, human nature and history. Akin to an archeologist, he often walks the hills and hikes the mountains, searching for traces of the past. He explains that Via Flaminia, the main thoroughfarequote between Rome and the Adriatic coast, runs through Cagli and over the Apennine Mountains. As an ancient corridor built by the Romans, the road brought many people and therefore many cultures to the area. He says the people of Cagli, southern Italians and northern Italians are different from one another. Ever the truth-seeker, he searches for connections to the past.

“I want to understand why we are different and how those differences came to be,” he says.  “This helps me understand myself and Cagli.”

Pietro generously shares the fruits of his knowledge with the community. In particular, he is fond of sharing his wine. On a quest for perfection, he has crafted visciole for more than 20 years. He regularly gives it to friends, old and new alike. Without revealing any secrets, he carefully explains that good visciole should not be spoiled by extra ingredients like cinnamon and cloves.  Fine visciole, he says, requires concentrated cherries and quality wine as a base. The key is to let it age over a long period of time. This is why, he says, his visciole is the best. 

Pietro picks up a bottle, points to the label and tells a story. Years ago, during an art exhibit, he struck up a conversation with a talented artist. A self-described art critic, Pietro shared his opinions. After some time, the artist asked Pietro to meet him again so they could continue to discuss art. Later that day, Pietro arrived with two bottles of visciole. Over wine, the two shared storiesVisciole and their common appreciation for fine art.  When they finished, the gentleman proclaimed Pietro’s visciole the best he’d ever had, saying it deserved a better bottle. The artist painted a picture of the Italian countryside for Pietro, and the painting now graces the label of Pietro’s wine. The original hangs on a wall in the winemaker’s house.

Stories like this are why Pietro loves making visciole. While his sweet, tart wine is good enough to sell, he dismisses this notion and says he enjoys making people happy. He adds that visciole is a way to bring people together and build friendships. 

Friendship, moments in time and everyday-life plant seeds in the soul. Pietro tends to these seeds by connecting people. When asked how he wants to be remembered, Pietro smiles and says he hopes everyone will come to say goodbye, raise a toast and say he never did anything bad to anyone.




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To find out more information about how
you can participate or support the Cagli project, contact:

Name: Shannon Zaranski
Phone:+1 509 - 313 - 3569
Email: zaranski@gonzaga.edu
Director: Dr. John Caputo
E-mail: caputo@gonzaga.edu