20.07.2011 - 16.08.2011
After a few days of much needed rest at "Casa Ware" in Rome including a compulsory trip to 2 of our favourite eating establishments (Gioia Mia and Belle Epoque) we were off to Località il Piano, a small and very remote organic farm near Spoleto in Umbria. The farm is run by an American/Italian couple; Darcy and Adolfo who have 2 small children Ben and Fafa (Filippo). The cycling to get to their farm was magnificent, taking us through incredibly well preserved medieval towns and villages before climbing into the Umbrian Appennines along winding forested roads into the hills where the farm was nestled.
Despite having to push our bikes for an hour to reach the farm (there is no road for the last 2 km) it was absolutely worth it to reach the secluded piece of paradise where their farm is located. Out of all the Woofing placements that we have done on this trip this has probably been our favourite one. Darcy and Adolfo were really keen to teach us anything we were interested in learning and as they each have a Phd in agriculture they had quite a lot of knowledge to impart! One of the key things we were interested in learning about was cheese making – so Darcy and Adolfo started us at the beginning by teaching us to milk the goats! It was incredibly satisfying participating in the whole process from extracting milk from an animal to having goats milk mozzarella with dinner less than two hours later.
Other strings added to our farming bows are pruning olive trees, building a stone wall, grafting apricots and lots and lots of watering ( Darcy and Adolfo have over 1000 fruit trees apparently the largest variety in Italy!)
They also have a pizza oven so we had a chance to try out the coveted pizza dough recipe from Belle Epoque (see Rob's previous blog post). Happily it was a triumph, not to ‘bready’ but still crispy– it seems the secret really is letting the dough rise twice!
After 10 days at idyllic località il piano it was time to move on to our next (and last) woofing placement at Podere Il Casale in Pienza, Tuscany. Cycling from Umbria into Tuscany was like crossing into a different country. Wild woodland and forests were replaced with swanky convertible cars and trendy tourists wearing oversized sunglasses daintily eating gelatos clutching their guidebooks. Where Umbria is wild and dramatic Tuscany is undisputably beautiful but in a more postcard perfect way. Podere Il Casale was perched on a hill with a stunning classically Tuscan panorama of rolling honey-yellow coloured hills with picturesque villas with Cyprus tree lined driveways.
This farm was much bigger than Localita Il Piano, mainly selling cheese but also a thriving agri-campeggio (agriturismo is a scheme enabling farmers to supplement their income through tourism). Keen to further my cheesemaking journey I was tasked with being the afternoon ‘pastore’ (shepherd) for 80 sheep and 1 goat. The goat, called Baptista, was my favourite. She had been raised with sheep instead of goats and bleated incessantly when separated from them so they grazed together. Every afternoon when the oppressive heat finally waned at about 5pm I herded the sheep and goat out into the fields for a 2 hour dinner of grass and blackberries.
Meanwhile Rob was turning his hand at a whole host of things, mainly culinary wizardry perfecting his baking and tiramisu making, but also fashioning a new chicken coup for the chicks.
After a week of Woofing here (and almost 3 weeks off the bikes) it was time to set off again as we had left ourselves a fairly tight window of 10 days to get up to St. Moritz for our friend Astrid’s wedding.