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The Return to Cascina Piola

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Cascina Piola: A welcome place for family and friends

Five years ago I took a similar trip to Europe to volunteer on organic farms. I was traveling alone and spent most of my time in Italy. My first three months were on a large cooperative in the Maremma, the coastal region of southern Tuscany. The beauty of the farm was unequaled, sitting halfway up on the slopes of Monte Amiata that rise from the sea valley below. Looking out from the fields at the Mediterranean we could see the island of Elba, and on especially clear days Corsica’s mountains just barely emerged from the sky around them, so distant that even the crystalline air allowed only a haze of their form to be seen.

The farm was run by a man named Antonio, a Neapolitan, whose vision for his farm was more political than agrarian: he liked the idea of having a cooperative, but didn’t pay much attention to what was happening day to day with his flock of 1000 sheep, 200 pigs, cattle, and vast fields of grain and olives. Animals were left vulnerable to disease and predators; sheep were eaten by dogs that were meant to protect them. The farm’s deficiencies eventually became too much and I left.

I was desperate to find a place to go and on a whim I called a farm named Cascina Piola in Piedmont, a region I knew little about. A woman named Raffa answered the phone and kindly agreed to let me come despite the short notice. At the time I thought it would only be a temporary stop until I decided on my next step. Without a fixed departure date I stayed on at Cascina Piola, working through the summer and fall. I became a part of the family, travelling with them to the farms and vineyards of their friends in Italy, France, and Germany. It wasn’t until six months later, just before the winter holidays, that I finally decided to return home to New York.

Now, five years later, Vanessa and I have finished our month in Spain and flown to northern Italy so that I can return to Cascina Piola and Vanessa can meet my extended, Italian family.

Cascina Piola is owned by Raffa along with her husband Piero, who, over twenty years ago, met as high school teachers in Torino. Soon after, they quit their jobs and purchased the farmhouse and a few surrounding acres not far from the city to become organic farmers. They have two children, Stefano and Federica, who were both born shortly after the move to the farm. Raffa and Piero grow fruits, nuts, and vegetables, most of which they cook in traditional methods and then jar and sell; the rest feeds the family and guests who stay and eat in their agritourism. Piero also makes a small production of wine from the barbera, dolcetto, and cortese grapes that he grows in his vineyard located about forty-five minutes away in Strevi, where his mother still lives. Vanessa and I are just in time for the dolcetto harvest, an event that brings back memories of the dolcetto harvest five years earlier, which took place on September 11, 2001.

For information on staying at Cascina Piola’s agritourism, where you can sample Piero’s wine and Raffa’s excellent cooking based firmly in the products from their land:

Cascina Piola
Fraz. Serra
Via Fontana, 2
14014 Capriglio (AT)
Tel/Fax: +39 0141 997 447

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