The Cherries of Lari

Lari is a small town of 8000 inhabitants situated near Pontedera which is famous for its cherry production. Nevertheless, for Lari and the surrounding area, the cherry is more than just a vocation. In fact, the residents of Lari have never considered the cherries as a way of generating income, neither have they ever considering the cultivating of the cherries as a true form of employment. For as long as the residents can remember these luscious cherries have always grown along the town’s roadsides and in the fields and the fruit, which is particularly delicious due to the perfect growing conditions in Lari, is always welcomed as a joy of the spring season.

Lari is ancient town that has Etruscan origins: with ruins which date all the way back to the 8th Century B.C. and even traces of the famous Roman Trail from the 3rd century B.C. During Medieval times, Lari was involved in several conflicts between Pisa, Lucca and Florence and its huge, castle, which is still a dominant feature of the town’s profile, serves as evidence of such conflicts. During the Renaissance the castle was home to a number of rich, florentine families, from the Pitti family to the Strozzi family, and the restorations and the decorating of the castle’s interior were often carried out by the most famous artists of this time.

Thanks to its ideal location for the plantation of cherries, today this rural town is almost always associated with cherries as it has always been an. There are numerous varieties of cherries present in Lari (only 19 of which are traditional types of cherries, the others having only been introduced onto the market recently), of which several have by now become either very rare or at the risk of becoming extinct whilst the others continue to enjoy an ever increasing level of fame.

There are also those types of cherry which have an interesting history behind them. For example, the Siso, which is a delicious type of cherry that, although has a hard skin, is extremely tasty . The Siso cherry was named after a certain Pachetti di Lari, nicknamed Siso, who sneakily planted his cherry tree in the village. However, the tree was not actually his. He actually noticed this majestic cherry tree in a garden in Usigliano (a suberb of Lari) which had been brought back from Japan by the garden’s owner during a trip there. Pachetti loved the tree so much that he asked the owner’s permission to take a couple of branches, so that he could graft a similar tree himself, but the owner refused his request. However, during that night Pachetti sneakily returned to the gardens, cutting off many of the original tree’s branches which he then used to start a plantation of cherries in the town Lari. So, it was actually Pachetti who made this town so famous for its cherries.

Within Lari and its surrounding regions (which includes the towns of Casiciana Terme and Terricciola) the cultivation of cherries has never been the primary activity of the residents. The fruit is mainly kept for local trade and consumption (often the fruit is only exchanged amongst the family and friends of its cultivator). Therefore, there is only really one true opportunity for the rest of us to sample the magnificent flavour that the famous cherries of Lari have to offer: the annual town festival of the cherry.

This marvellous annual occasion in Lari is one of Tuscany’s longest running festivals (in 2006 the town held its 50th festival). It takes places at the beggining the summer season falling on the last weekend of the month of May (or the first of June). Its a huge celebration in which all local cherry harvesters participate. More recently, Lari’s most famous fruit was even nominated for official DOP seal of quality, and is currently undergoing the final stages of the application. This really would be a final tribute to the glorious cherries of Lari.

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