Discover Nature’s Magic

We’re lucky here in Abruzzo, there’s always something to keep us occupied; treks into the national parks, a visit to one of the many places of historical interest or simply quiet contemplation beside the sea. This region of Italy is so diverse, making it a great place to immerse yourself and take time out to visit more than your average tourist haunt. Despite not being a tourist I still enjoy a day trip out and at the end of last month we found a unique gem of a place, a perfect place for families with children and anyone who has an interest in living as naturally as possible.

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The place we discovered is situated in the L’Aquila region and is called, Fattoria Valle Magica (Magic Valley Farm). The farm may sit in a valley with awe-inspiring views of the rugged wilderness surrounding it, but what is more inspiring is the concept and ethos of the farm which is the brainchild of Ralph and Ninke.

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Our visit started with a warm welcome from Ralph and his family before he began to explain the vision for the farm. He explained that fed up with the stress of modern living and checking labels to see what his 4 children were eating, the family purchased the house and land and in the spring of 2015 began transforming a wild and neglected terrain into a place where they could raise rare breeds organically and live as naturally as possible.

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While we looked at the sheep and goats Ralph explained that the farm focuses on breeding and conserving rare and traditional Italian breeds that are no longer used in modern commercial farming. Using organic sensibilities these breeds may take longer to mature but the emphasis swings closer to the welfare of the animal rather than the profit margins. A quick call summoned a deluge of happy pigs that ran towards us from where they’d been foraging and we could see for ourselves how the group enjoyed living life as nature intended.

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We took a tour of the farm seeing the immense amount of work that had gone on to fence areas to protect the livestock from the local wolves: Ralph dug and sited around 700 fence posts by hand. We met the chickens, rabbits, turkeys and his collection of hives before heading back to the BBQ area for a glass of wine and to sample some home reared lonza (cured pork loin).

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The farm has plans to open an education centre and to welcome people for visits where they can purchase produce to take home or to cook al fresco in the BBQ area. We enjoyed our visit very much and found it both educational and thought provoking.

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If you’re visiting Abruzzo and looking for something different then I recommend you give Magic Valley Farm a visit, who knows you may even be lucky to help out with feeding the contented animals that reside there. The address for visits is, Località Ponte Amaro, 67020 Carapelle Calvisio AQ, Italy. But please note as this is a working farm and all bookings must be made in advance, to make a booking or for more information click this Website link

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Our day came to a close with us purchasing the produce we had originally ordered and we left Ralph to settle in his newly arrived native Abruzzese black pigs.

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As a postscript I can confirm that the quality of the produce we purchased surpassed anything we have previously bought from supermarkets and commercially farmed butchers.

The Birds and the Bees

Hands up, who clicked today’s blog post thinking or hoping it was about sex?

I was driving along the road through San Tommaso with the iPod switched on as usual, as I was sat behind a tractor cutting the hedges at the side of the road and travelling at around 8kmph, it was apt that Kate Bush was singing the largely unknown B.side, You Want Alchemy. The song about bees and honey ambles along beautifully, much like I was doing as the large industrial strimmer took off the excess grow at the strada’s edge. Suddenly the car was engulfed by a flock of swallows, eager I guess for the insects released by the machines blades. Feeling like Tipi Hedren in a cinematic promo for The Birds, I watch as they dart dangerously close to my windscreen, I’m worrying they may be harmed, but my worry is needless, these little blue/black birds are travelling faster than I am. Up ahead is the speed camera and the flower shop, the strimmer stops and is hydraulically lifted up and away from the edge of the road and the swallows disperse. We come to a straight stretch of road and I take the opportunity to pass the tractor, as he reaches the hedges again, the strimmer once more is deployed, and as the whirring blades chop at the greenery, the swallows once again return to feast.

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I undertake the task which was the reason for my journey, drop into the bakers and buy a panino morbido, to accompany the salad I’ll be having for lunch and make my way back home. I’m sliding along passing the yellow coloured house on the bend when the slipstream caused by my driving sucks several bees into the car. I look into my rear view mirror and see just a scooter and a small Fiat behind me. Three bees have landed on the back window and are puzzled by this see-through hard thing preventing them from flying, another two are buzzing around inside and one has alighted upon the steering wheel. I slow down and let the scooter overtake, the Fiat turned off a few metres back. As soon as the car is motionless the two flying bees escape through the open passenger-side window, I get out and the bee on my steering wheel leaves through the open door, I open the rear door and two bees instantly sense freedom and take to flight, leaving one behind. The remaining bee buzzes down onto the headrest of the back seat and paces back and forth. As I’m stopped in a somewhat silly place on a main road,, there’s nothing for it but to coax her out. I lay my hand down and she walks up to it, waggles her head a little and them walk onto my index finger, carefully I withdraw my hand and once she feels the warm sunshine, with a buzz she’s gone.

I climb back into that car, and before I drive away, I backtrack on the iPod and listen to Kate Bush again as I make my way home.