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A summer escape to Italian organic farms

Posted by Hannah Gardner at 04:33 on Tuesday 15 January 2019

The acclaimed garden designer and horticulturalist Hannah Gardner visits two Italian family run organic farms from where she has been ordering produce for several years

Organic farmPhoto: La Fattoria La Vialla

The cliché may be to follow your heart but I would advise also following your stomach. Having long bought produce directly from two farms in Italy – wine and olive oil from Cincinnato farm, in Lazio, and cheese from Fattoria La Vialla, 300km north in the eastern hills of Tuscany - I had worked up a definite appetite to discover more about them. When the opportunity arose to visit them, I made sure I had a large shopping basket in my suitcase and set off on a journey to the source of many a great supper back home in Somerset.

First stop was Fattoria La Vialla, known for its wine, olive oil, pasta, pecorino cheese and (largely vegetarian, often vegan) pasta sauces. The estate’s farmhouses and apartments are available as holiday cottages during the summer months and renting one is not only a sure-fire route to some escapism but also a great way to delve slightly deeper into the owners’ ecological approach (produce here is 100% organic and biodynamic).

Organic farm 3Photo: La Fattoria La Vialla

The Lo Franco family, who have owned the estate since the 1970s, are dedicated environmentalists, meticulously following sustainable methods of farming. As well as an on-site dairy (churning out fresh ricotta and pecorino), a subterranean winery and an olive press the estate is home to a small rural museum, giving a fascinating insight into local farming methods, plus a farm shop stocked with the full range of (beautifully presented) Fattoria products.

Staying for a few nights in one of the estate’s simple but chic properties (think heavy linen furnishings and a smattering of Tuscan antiques), I combined generous amounts of olive oil and wine tasting with short hikes out into the local countryside. Within the boundaries of the vast hillside estate you can swim in two lakes or roam through miles of steep woodland without so much as catching sight of an asphalt road. Unsurprisingly, the estate is bursting with biodiversity, a testament to its sympathetic farming methods. Wandering in open ground between mature oaks and pines I watched ribbon-like Lizard orchid flowers catch the breeze above metallic clouds of large quaking grass, while colourful aromatic plants beneath were abuzz with pollinators, their hives half hidden in a nearby clearing.

Organic farm 2Photo: La Fattoria La Vialla

Electric bikes and methane-powered cars are also available to guests, helping you transport produce along dusty, undulating, tracks from the farm back to your kitchen. If you don’t want to do your own cooking, there is also a restaurant on the estate, serving products from the farm and vineyard of course; pick one of several tables spilling out of old stone farm buildings and into the surrounding orchards and feast on homemade bread, cheese and salad, homemade pizza, moreish parpadelle with ragu, slow cooked lamb or vegetables roasted simply with olive oil and herbs.

Further south, in the Lazio region, the foothills of the Lepini Mountains offer excellent hiking, especially in the spring, when they’re carpeted by blue Anemone apennina. I was there not just to wander, however, but to graze. The distinctive, delicately peppery, Itrana olive is particular to the area and is one speciality grown by another of my UK suppliers, Christiana Aureggi and Tommaso Pianelli at La Stramma, an agriturismo outside the town of Cori. 

Organic farm 4Photo: La Fattoria La Vialla

The charismatic couple farm their vines and olive trees organically and, as well as the Itrana olives, they also supply grapes to Cincinnato, a local winery and agriturismo with an excellent, and sophisticated, restaurant. The commitment of La Stramma’s tiny team to organic methods is admirable, but the proof of those methods is ultimately in the unquestionably high calibre of their products. See for yourself by ordering some online. Or, better still, venture to Lazio next summer and enjoy an olive oil-tasting under fruit-laden vines with Cristiana and Tomasso, learning first-hand about the farm and local area.

More information
Cincinato farmhouse and winery
La Stramma
Fattoria La vialla

Disclosure

Blogs posts categorised as 'Reviews' have been written with the support of one or more of the following: accommodation owner, activity provider, operator, equipment supplier, tourist board, protected landscape authority or other destination-focussed authority. The reviewer retains full editorial control of the work, which has been written in the reviewer's own words based on their experience of the accommodation, activity, equipment or destination.

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