Tommaso and Tommasina Floro, Sewickley, PA
Born in Falerna, Province of Catanzaro, Calabria, Italy
Tommaso is always busy, if not in and around his own home, then you’ll find him working at the homes of his three sons. He continues to be employed as the groundskeeper of a large estate which he has done for decades and served as a second job before retiring from a local steel mill. A recent visit found him hauling firewood for his basement wood stove, captured in the photo below, which also shows other evidence of his industriousness. To the left is a fig tree, wrapped for winter protection. To the right is a meticulously cared for grape arbor and a stand of well-controlled bamboo, grown to stake the many tomatoes and pole beans grown in the large vegetable garden. You can see last year’s bamboo stakes leaning against a pear tree which he has grafted to produce three kinds of pears.
Tommasina, better known as Mascina, is one of the original inspirations for The Italian Garden Project™ and I have the privilege of frequently spending time with her in the garden and kitchen. If I don’t find her in her garden, I usually find her in her basement kitchen, baking bread or cooking the fresh produce she has harvested that day. I am in awe of her knowledge, energy, and skills. She’s taught me how to cure raw olives and make soap from the fat she saves when making fresh and dried sausages, how to save the seeds from a variety of vegetables and how and when to plant them, and how to care for fig trees. The learning goes on and on. She is so humble about all that she knows, acting as though her talents are nothing special and surely everyone knows how to do these things.
You’ll get to know these busy hands, moving about their many tasks with experience and confidence. We’ll see them many times as we follow her from spring to fall, having patiently allowed me to video and photograph through a whole season of gardening and cooking.