Groundhog Day in Italy? Well, not really, but let’s say Punxsutawney Phil may just have a long lost ancestor in Tuscany. Every year, Phil gets taken out in a bug celebration for what we, in America call Groundhog Day. If you have no idea what we are talking about, go see the movie by the same name. A classic cheesy comedy!
So how do we tie Punxsutawney Phil into Tuscany? As it turns out, centuries ago there was a man in the town of Montepulciano (famous for Vino Nobile), who was a hermit living in a cave. He would regularly tell the other villagers what kind of weather to expect, which was crucial to the grapes for their wine. He had a remarkable success rate, so much that his methods were brought into question. He must be some kind of heretic, of course! The Devil’s magic! How else could he know what nobody else did.
Investigated buy the Vatican, he revealed his secret method, and it turned out that it wasn’t magic at all. He would regularly leave his cave, and observe a Hedgehog OK, not a Groundhog, but close enough, right? If the hedgehog got scared of its shadow, he knew the weather would be good. Otherwise, bad times were ahead, and he would let the people know.
His methods were legitimized, and he was given the name Riccio deRicci (Which means The Hedgehog of the Hedgehogs)… almost like saying “The HedgeHog whisperer”. Not only did this hermit become famous, but eventually became a Cardinal, and consequently very rich and powerful.
The cave that Riccio deRicci lived in during this period is now the ancient cellar of the winery we visit with our groups in Montepulciano. For years, named Cantina del Redi, but now renamed in honor of Riccio deRicci as “Cantina deRicci” Their logo is, of course, a Hedgehog…. The Tuscan Punxsutawney Phil!