The keeper of seeds and knowledge and the troublemaker

Thank you is detracting from my gratitude for this tale. When you are in the flow the right people arrive too, sometimes as they say “by accident”, and when you talk to us you realize that we had already met a long time ago. Thanks Loredana! (Manuela Vestri)  

Beauty is a form of Genius, indeed, it is higher than Genius because it does not need explanations.

Oscar Wilde.

You are looking for valuable manuscripts, of which we often only know that they exist, that very few in the world have seen or touched. She looks for precious seeds, and rediscovers them, and takes care of them and enhances them, just as she does with manuscripts. Manuela is the cultrice of beauty and I spent two whole days with her. Two mutual friends had told her about me – by “chance” – as always happens when you flow into your right river. And she started following Storie di PiantaGrani and we talked and we met. All within two weeks. Sometimes beauty is like this: it is captured as soon as possible, otherwise it fades. I was in her splendid house with its high frescoed vaults and the terrace on the roofs of the Florentine center. You almost touched the Duomo. I could hardly contain the emotion and all that beauty, while Manuela told how she goes to “find” the manuscripts, and how she lovingly searches for precious papers and unique materials to reproduce them. On one wall of the study hangs a photo of the gift of the Amiatina Bible to Pope John Paul II, Manuela and her husband Paolo in the presence of the Pope. Manuela and Paolo, beautiful as they are now, united as they are now and for over forty years . And it is wonderful to be with Manuela and Paolo for dinner, to taste the delights made with ancient Tuscan grains, coming exclusively from the fields of the Vestri Farm where it is produced according to the principles of Shumei certified natural agriculture. And it was an honor to meet Manuela’s parents and to walk in the wind of her green fields with her newly born wheat and rustling of ancient and barren vines of January. It is difficult to tell such a rich, full and fascinating story in a blog. It would actually be necessary to write a book about her, to tell in detail about her her long story as a woman who she still lives, at the age of sixty-five, full of beauty and curiosity and the desire to make plans and realize them. It’s the truth, it would take a good biography to tell Manuela. Written romantically by hand, perhaps, with a beautiful handwriting, to honor the prestigious work she does for culture, nature and beauty. And in truth, what PlantGrani would I be if I didn’t accept the challenge of this so demanding and profound story?


The only daughter of Lide and Terzilio, business managers and landowners for generations, Manuela married young in the early 1970s, immediately after graduating in English. After the birth of her two children, she taught English for several years in public school. Certainly the precarious life as a teacher and the too repetitive rhythms of that profession did not suit Manuela and her innate passion for travel and “movement”, her vivacity and her enterprising curiosity. And she was late in entering “role”. She left school and started a tourism company that received foreigners, especially Americans, in Tuscany and guided them through the most typical and unknown, sometimes inaccessible, areas. She is in contact with nature and also with the gastronomic rurality, as well as local customs. A wonderful experience, says Manuela. Wonderful humans, guided on the Tuscan paths, people with whom Manuela is still in contact today.


After several years of thriving and fun activity, the decline began. There was the internet, the market was changing and there were the operators who had trained Manuela, more cunning than her to divert the flows towards more mass and profitable destinations. But it was no longer her plan. Then Manuela began to do the opposite: she brought Italians abroad, to discover new and unexplored destinations. She used to go there first: she went to stay with the Tuareg in the Libyan desert or explored the villages of India, before taking or sending us groups of Italians who were passionate about extra-tourist destinations. Meanwhile, the passion for research emerged more and more. She had the idea of ​​giving birth to the La Meta publishing house to reproduce ancient manuscripts and save them from the oblivion of the display cases in the library and make them available to fans from all over the world. In 2008 Manuela and her publishing house became famous in the world of libraries and national and international admirers for having printed the Amiatina Bible we were talking about at the beginning. Years of work for a single manuscript, a demanding activity but carried out with love and satisfaction. Meanwhile, Lide and Terzilio were retired and were directly taking care of the beautiful nineteenth-century farmhouse in Val di Chiana and the farms that surround it.


Manuela understands that it is time to take charge and care also of the family properties: generations of men and women with a hard and far-sighted temper had succeeded in those properties, had made them bear fruit and grow. Beyond the rows of centuries-old vines, her attention is drawn to the ancient durum wheat that the family has been growing for generations. She studies it and has it analyzed: it is a “blended” from the family of Senatore Cappelli, certainly older because it was earlier. And then she begins to study soft grains: Gentil Rosso, Frassineto and Inallettabile seeds of which she becomes the custodian grower for the germplasm bank of the Tuscany region. Manuela, slowly scratching the atavistic beliefs and convictions of her father, begins to activate the philosophy and technique of natural agriculture in the fields, regenerating them. And in 2015, with stone-milled durum wheat flour in Val d ‘Orcia, she began the first experiments for the production of lei pasta di lei. In 2016 she began marketing a unique product of its kind and which is gradually arriving on the tables of those who want to eat in a certain way. Her flours are used to make bread, too, and are experimented with for making desserts. Also. At her house I ate various sweets: one in particular, floured, in a glass jar, seasoned with honey and figs. Unforgettable: to be taken back. We will all soon be able to taste it. Manuela’s story is much richer than what we have told: she teaches meditation techniques and knows and studies ancient oriental spirituality. Manuela cannot stop in researching, preserving, curating, creating, proposing. It’s her mission, and if you understand it, you love her right away. Thanks Manuela.

Text and photos by Loredana Parisi –

article published on on January 21, 2018.



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