sabato 20 novembre 2010

Recreation - A day at Sotto i Pini

 In recent days I have had the pleasure to visit Sotto i Pini, a B&B and family orchard located a few minutes from Mount Etna, which had recently played the grand role of hosting Sicily's first Permaculture Design Course about a month ago. The visit was arranged by a good friend of ours, Massimiliano, who me and Aureliano met during our work/studies at the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia earlier this year. Originally, the visit to Sotto i Pini was planned to be focused around doing work on portions of an old fence enclosing a poultry system, however the weather turned sour later in the day and the work was cut short. Instead, I got the chance to talk to Paulo Costa (who manages the B&B with his wife Pia) and have some of my agriculture-related questions answered by someone with way more experience than me in the field.

 Since coming to Sicily about a month ago, I have observed countless plots of land standing abandoned in the midst of surrounding houses, even though the soil, sun-angle and generously mild Mediterranean climate seem to provide nothing short of excellent growing conditions. The farmers are no-where to be seen, and according to locals the land stands abandoned for years. Being a farmer himself (working on the land in Sotto i Pini, as well as managing an agri-tourism property further in the North of Sicily), Paulo had a lot of light to shed on this, as well as on a few of my other questions.

 However, Paulo was not always living the lifestyle as he does now. For a large portion of his life, Paulo worked with PC hardware trading, a job which forced him to constantly go across Sicily, from city to city. 7 years ago he made the decision that this was not the life which he wanted to live, and then promptly made the decision to do something about it. With his wife Pia's skills in tourism and his yearning to work on the land, all their time and energy was decided to be focused on developing Sotto i Pini as well as the extensive orchard which adjoins the property. Things went smoothly overall with the development of the B&B business, however the constant sale of food produced on their land has been a bumpy ride to this day. According to Paulo, more money flows out than into the food production business at the current moment, one of the main reasons being the arrival of cheaper foods from foreign countries which undercut the farmers attempting to sell Sicilian produce. This forces quite a large numbers of Sicilian farmers to move further inland where property prices are much cheaper, hence the large numbers of abandoned land plots which I have seen in the Mount Etna area. Nevertheless, Paulo seems persistent in his quest for a life of health and wealth and plans to retrofit an old storage cellar into a space where food produce from the orchard can be processed into various products and workshops could be held. 

A virtual tour of the Sotto i Pini B&B house can be taken on their website in several languages.


Massimiliano and Paulo collecting large stones to help patch up the gaps
under the poultry fence.

Part of the extensive adjoining orchard.

Our friend Massimiliano.

An incredible lunch with the Costa family.

The colorful sign outside.

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