Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Exploring and Hard Working by Christina Wolf

Last minute decisions are always the best.  Annie (Steeves) and I had planned to go the world famous "Frasassi Caves" on Friday. Check out their website:  http://www.frasassi.com/
  The night before, we got a response email from a WWOOF member farm (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) who said we could stay for a weekend to work whenever we wanted. We had contacted them prior in the week.  After looking up the farm's location it clicked.  Pergola is only 30 minutes from the caves! There was no way we couldn't go.  After receiving this e-mail at 9 PM on Thursday night, we quickly called back the farm, made plans and packed our bags.
This is a sign.. but it actually looks like that inside!
More mountains across from cave entrance
We left Ascoli on the 6 AM train to Genga Friday morning.  We arrived to the caves at 9:30 AM and had about 30 minutes to explore before the tour of the Frasassi Caves.  The cave tour was 1.5 miles long and took about an hour.  It was incredible to be inside of the caves, as they are a natural wonder of the world.  
Unfortunately you can't take pictures inside the caves for whatever reason, but I snapped a few before entering.
After the tour was complete, we were picked up in the parking lot by the oldest son on the farm, Pietro. We were instantly welcomed and although we weren't even to the farm yet, I knew it was going to be a great weekend.  
Case Bottaro is a small, organic, family-run farm in the Apennines mountains of the Marche Region. They have 50 acres of land divided half and half (agricultural terrain and woodland/shrubbery).  This is their 26th year on the farm.  They grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, and grains, and raise animals.
Their main products include: 
Barley, wheat, spelt and an ancient variety of corn for making cornmeal.
Borlotti beans, Mexican and white eyed beans, chick peas and lentils.
Garlic, onions, pumpkins, carrots, and winter greens.
Spring lamb, Pork. 
That afternoon we picked beans for a few hours and called it a day. Then we got to explore the farm.  
We got some quality sleep that night (no sounds, no lights.. it felt like NH).  The next morning we picked and cleaned grapes, and got a personal grape tasting tour.  Paolo introduced us to his many varieties of grapes.  My favorite ones were called strawberry white and blue.  After the grapes, we had figs and apples to munch on.
Next we started the big job for the weekend: splitting and stacking wood for the winter.   (Not my favorite thing to do...)
It went by really fast and I felt accomplished after.  We cut and stacked for about 7 hours on Saturday, then finished the remaining wood Sunday morning.  It was about a 10 hour project.
We did 3 trailer loads.
All the hard work was made up for by delicious food.  Case Bottaro is part of a Co-Op called "La Terra e il Cielo".  95% of the growers and producers in this co-op are located in the Marche Region of Italy, whereas the remaining 5% are from other regions of Italy.  We had the most amazing dinner on Saturday night.. and everything on the plate was from the farm (minus the olive oil, which was from their neighbors farm...)
Chopped Fennel Salad, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Sheep Cheese, Salami from the piggies, and home bread made with their own flour
I had never eaten nor heard of sheep cheese in my life. It was actually quite delicious and tasted like a strong parmesan. 
Between exploring the Frasassi Caves and getting my hands dirty at Case Bottaro, my third weekend in Italy was amazing.  It was tough to get back to school yesterday after being back in the countryside all weekend long.

Next weekend... Amalfi Coast, Capri and Pompeii!


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