It was fifteen years ago that I first visited bella Italia. One of my best memories from that trip was standing in a huge Tuscan sunflower field. We had rented a car and decided to cruise through the countryside. It was a great mode of transportation, allowing us to get close and personal with the environment. We parked the car and took a short walk out to a sunflower field. I found myself delightfully surrounded by expanses of bright yellow faces, all gazing up at the sun. I discovered that they follow the sun all day long, every one of them. At night they droop a bit but when the sun rises out of the east at morning tide, their cheerful little heads lift to gaze upward once more.
I have always had a great fondness for sunflowers. I recall the gigantic ones in the neighbor’s garden from my childhood. They made me think of tall solemn nuns, all standing in a row, their heads bowed down heavy with seeds.
Sunflower fields in Italy can be found mostly in Tuscany, Umbria, and Le Marche from mid-June until early August. However, the best time to see their vibrant colors in full bloom is closer to mid-July.
An interesting fact about Sunflowers is that they display “heliotropism,” the ability to grow in the direction of the sun. They position themselves as tiny seedlings to be turned toward the east where the sun rises. As the sun passes across the sky from east to west throughout the day, those little golden heads turn to follow it intensely. At night-time, they return to an eastward orientation and patiently wait until the sun rises the next morning. As a result, the Sunflower has earned the name Girasole, which means “sun turner.”
Sunflowers are grown predominately for their oil which is used in cooking, as a base oil for therapeutics, and as food.
The wonderful aspect about Sunflowers is their ability to shine with relatively minimal care. Full sun, a fertile soil, and good water are all they require. The wonder, joy, and delight they bring to those walking, bicycling and driving by fields of them is quite moving. I prefer to think of Sunflower fields as little armies of love. Majestic and beautiful, they leave a lasting memory with those who stop and take in the glorious view of those little golden faces.
Have you had the opportunity to see the magnificent sunflower fields in Italy? What has been you sunflower experience, anywhere? I’d love to hear your stories too.