An engaging lesson in ethical food followed by a delicious lunch sampling the wonders of heritage Abruzzo isn’t perhaps what most people would expect on an excursion in Abruzzo! However, this is exactly what we were treated to courtesy of Fattoria Valle Magica recently at their superb farm to table offering that is located just down the road from Rocca Calascio. They can scenically educate and engage kids and adults alike in English and Italian, as well as provide a delicious lunch, and are so worth a visit!
I hadn’t experienced the ‘Farm Tour’ here; my son had, finding it really interesting (in fact he can still quote facts from it to this day). No doubt that is why he always looks out for Valle Magica’s salumi if we visit L’Aquila’s farmers market. Entertaining, educational stories combined with great food has a long-lasting appeal to children! If only it could always be like this! I had enjoyed their barbecue lunches previously, at which you can buy their farm-produced meat and grill it yourself on-site. We’d also been as a family to one of their superb Halloween events. So when there was the suggestion of having a group excursion for our Life In Abruzzo community with lunch at the new bistro I thought, “now is my chance to catch up with the kid!”
We came together on a sunny February Sunday, the snow mostly melted from the previous weekend. We were a tumble of nationalities and ages spanning three continents. Those living full and part-time in Abruzzo and all eager to know a little more about farming in Abruzzo and of course cuddle a bunny. Some of us were already fans of the UK food journalist Dan Saladino who campaigns for traditional and indigenous foods, while others were new to the conversation. Whatever your stance or knowledge about food production, an integral part of a trip to Italy is a food based chat that allows you to take away something a little more than just great products. Seeing and listening to the Irish farm owner, Ralph Boston describe the provenance of what he was feeding his Nero d’Abruzzo (Black Abruzzo) pigs in the context of the price of sustainability, reiterated the fact that ‘we are what we eat’ and it doesn’t stop with us! Across the farm there are plenty of petting opportunities for kids and adults alike as well as seeing wonderful old breeds whose extra magic lays in their spire like horns or laying olive coloured eggs. Topics such as ethical food stamps, bio-diversity, heritage foods and the impact of climate change on bees and farming popped up organically and in context as we toured the farm.
The farm’s new 0 km bistro, Delizie Fattoria Valle Magica down the road allows the farm to be sustainable across all four seasons to sell their own products, plus create tasty dishes to showcase them. Cosy and warm on this winter’s day and super tolerant of our muddy feet, we could criss cross Europe here with an incredible choice of natural wines and artisan beers. I tried a too drinkable sour beer here for the first time which I would heartily recommend everyone to try. We all enjoyed a delicious medley of grazing platters that took us to Greece and Spain and back to Abruzzo, created by the cook Christina for our group. She has a degree in psychology and her work on the farm includes owl workshops to ensure the children go home learning about domestic and wild animals. This was a lovely chance for us to sample products that are not readily available in Abruzzo but now made on the farm like the home-produced chorizo. The farm is trying to not rival local, old-as-time farms, but rather utilise its fantastic ingredients and re-create other notable products not readily available locally. I loved the attention to detail, pairing hummus and a wild pea spread with pizza scima, Abruzzo’s nearest version of pita bread, a flat bread, Jewish in origin. Menus will change according to the season and for those lusting after a dish a of pasta there will always be one available! Later in the summer cheese will be made on the farm but feta and halloumi instead of the usual Abruzzo pecorino.
Would I recommend a visit? A resounding yes, as can be read from other members of the group that I visited with!
One of the nicest things about our closed season at the Kokopelli Campsite, is exploring locally so we can keep giving you lots of ideas for exploring yourselves. Had a lovely day yesterday catching up with Fattoria Valle Magica meeting some of their new additions and learning all about the ethos and practices behind their natural farming methods, built on love and compassion for the animals and environment. We finished the afternoon at their new bistro, Delizie Delle Valle
Spent a wonderful day at Fattoria Valle Magica, owned by Northern Irishman, Ralph Boston, who swapped life as MD of Amazon Slovakia to set up and run an organic farm.
Everything he does has the highest purpose; the way he looks after his animals, makes his salami and other produce, and the education of school kids. And visiting adults.
His big black pigs, Nero D’Abruzzo, live outside all year round; 2000 years ago they came from Africa and offer a lot of fat. The one we met was very pregnant so I asked what was the gestation period of a pig. 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days. Every time! No exceptions! He has had 14 piglets from one sow.
The sheep, the Gentile di Puglia, are the origins of the Aussie Merino. Sadly they only give 3 kilos of wool each per year at 50cents a kilo. The milk is used for his delicious pecorino cheese which we sampled at lunch.
His Girgentana goats from Agrigentino in Sicily and formerly from Persia were on the verge of extinction with only 140 left in 1995. Thankfully their numbers have now increased due to a couple of committed people. They give very rich creamy milk, wonderful for cheese and he makes interesting varieties. There were wonderful chooks and roosters which he keeps for their colourful eggs. Turkeys for Christmas. Ducks and Geese. Donkeys. Bees in colourful hives. White pigeons, rabbits, Guinea Pigs, owls ,an eagle owl, and a raven.
Afterwards we moseyed down to his bar and sampled everything he makes and other delicious goodies from nearby artisans; everything from people who care about truly organic and sustainable. It was a great day. It’s lovely to encounter a young man with such a passion and vitality for doing the right thing with animals and food.
We had a wonderful day. The tour was informative, interesting and inspiring. Although it took us an hour and a half it was well worth it. We are definitely planning on revisiting when we have visitors in the summer. The food at the bistro was superb, also somewhere else to visit again.
Great visit today with a group from Life in Abruzzo to Fattoria Valle Magica, a farm based on ethical raising of animals in an organic manner. It was very interesting and was followed by a tasting style lunch at the Bistro where they feature products from the farm and other local area small producers.
A lovely few hours spent with new friends tasting the fantastic produce of Fattoria Valle Magica. Ralph the owner’s knowledge of local produce was astounding and the food cooked and served by Claudia was just too tasty!
Join the Next Group Visit on Sunday 12th March!