We thought this was supposed to be a holiday!?!

14 06 2011

Well we are back again putting our fingers to the keyboard, officially we have now finished our WWOOFing placement and are writing from Riomaggiore the fifth town of the “Cinque Terre” but we still have a lot to share about this awesome experience so we will talk about that first.

Our first WWOOFing task was to head to the beautiful Dolceaqua with Enzo for a full day of markets. We were running an hour late- delayed by a herd of cattle up in the mountains. They had huge bells around the neck, apparently to keep the snakes away, and we were really interested in them and snapping photos like Japanese tourists but Enzo was not impressed!!! We rushed in with his Fiat van/ferrari and completely dismounted another stallholders gazebo in our efforts to get to his good spot near the fountain, we both jumped out of the van and helped the stallholder set their marquee right before it toppled into the river, there were a few harsh words exchanged but by the end of it we were all firm friends. We hurriedly  helped set up the stall and then we helped serve customers for most of the day- Chris held back a bit because he was a bit nervous about his Italian language skills (we had only arrived in the country the day before) but I threw myself into it, people were very kind and patient with us. By the end of the day we were both reasonably confident and even staffed the stall while Enzo went to the bar with his mates- this was a bit scary as the scales packed it while he was away and thankfully an Irish lady, Jane, who we had met and were chatting to helped with the translation and we took the products to another stallholder who weighed them for us. The trip home was a bit hairy as it was three hours of driving largely through the mountains, I nearly worried myself sick and Chris had finger indents in his leg from me gripping onto him but we got home safely thank God!

Our WWOOFing tasks were diverse and very interesting and in honesty we really didnt work that hard-  maybe three hours in the morning followed by a five plate meal with wine (and beer for Chris once they learnt that he was fond of the amber ale) and then a siesta until about 4pm when we worked for another couple of hours, we then finished up helping with the dishes after tea which usually was around 10pm. It rained a lot of the time we were there which we think was actually a blessing as it meant that a lot of the hotter, more tedious tasks had to be postponed (hand watering each plan with a pot etc). Our jobs included bottling wine from a big demijohn- this was great fun and we couldnt believe that Silvana and Enzo actually trusted us to do this by ourselves, they took off to town for an appointment and left us to it. We did a fair bit of training pomodori (tomatoes) plants as they grew quite quickly with all the water, we planted basil, beans, onion and celery and helped out with the housework- Silvana was completely amazed with Chris’ willingness to help out around the house as this simply does not happen in Italy. Silvana and Enzos property and livelihood includes growing and selling organic vegetables, eggs and fruit as well as cooking and selling organic bread, biscotti, cornetti, pizza, focacia and panini all made using ancient grains and flour- there are 11 different types of bread some of which we were told were popular with different nationalities- we have the recipes and will write them in our blog. Attached to their house is a commercial kitchen with a huge wood fired oven which is used to cook the bread and other products. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are dedicated to either working at the markets or preparing produce to be sold at the markets and we were lucky enough to be able to help out with this. Chris and I got to mix the bread then make the loaves as well as the biscotti- it was really good fun, this jobs had a few perks like being able to sample hot biscotti and panini straight out of the oven. We also got a realy good insight into how to make a wood fired oven (forno) from Enzo who made his oven himself- we plan to replicate this in little ole Clewlow Court on a smaller scale when we get home. On the weekends in the evening Silvana and Enzo work in shifts around the clock (literally) to bake enough products to supply the markets. 

With regards to some of our other tasks Enzo soon realised Chris’ potential as a work horse/pack mule and had him shovelling dirt to fix the road (I got to rake the already dumped dirt :-)) and also carrying cement poles for bean trellis (I also got out of this)- Chris had a bruise on his shoulder for a couple of days. They were very impressed with his strength and size as they are all pretty small people. On another occassion Chris got to us the chain saw to chop up some logs and I then split them with the axe (antique I think) which they were very surprised by as I was told this this was not “womens work”.

Enzo and Silvana have four adult sons, Marco, Alberto, Stefano and Lorenzo and they were all really hospitable to us while we were there. They took us out on quite a few occassions to a range of places including the local pub owned by a man called Battista (Batty to his mates) where you could buy a glass of the local sparkling wine (this region is famous for it) plus a king brown of Birra Moretti for 5 Euros ($7). We also went to a pub called Open in a place called Cinzano – coincidentally it was right across from the Cinzano factory which is now apparently owned by Guinness. Open Pub features around 100 varieties of beer all brewed in microbreweries (their own and others), the owners have collaborated with Rolling Stone magazine to develop a special range of beers and the smoking section at the front of the pub was made to look like jail cells and you were allowed to graffiti the walls- it was very cool, we went there a couple of times. We also went to a really great seafood restaurant with Alberto and his girlfriend Laura- the place looked like it was out of the bronx but the food was outstanding, it was here that we got to try some grappa on the house (Alberto’s best mate was the pizza maker)- phew, it nearly knocked our socks off.

We got to accompany these guys to the towns where they had markets which included Savona, Genoa and Torino which was great as it enabled us to see a lot from an insiders perspective- they gave us a lot of tips about places to go and things to see. At the markets in Genoa Chris and I had a little picnic and bought some products from a couple of the stalls, one of which sold only salami.  You could buy 4 piccolo salamis of different types for 5 Euros- the vendor must have been having a quiet day as he threw in one for free…it was donkey and as we walked away Chris pondered whether this was because donkey was not his best seller :-).  A highlight was Torino, Laura’s hometown, where Laura took us to the Mole Antoniella a tall tower with a lift to the top that gives you stunning views of the city. When Alberto finished at the markets which were held at Lingotto at the famous Eataly a slowfood shopping centre- awesome- we discovered the joys of aperitivi. We had always thought aperitivi was a drink…its not. Basically you go to a pub around happy hour and buy a drink and then you can eat as much as you like from a buffet of local delights. The place we went to in Victorio Piazza was packed and had dj sets all evening. We couldnt believe the concept- you get a whole meal for the price of one drink. After this we went up into the mountains surrounding the city to see the city at night- beautiful!!!  From here Laura pointed out Superga a mountain where the whole Torino Soccer Team of 1949 crashed and died, there is now a beautiful Church there in commemoration. We also got to see the Capella Della Sindone which is where the Shroud of Turin or Holy Shroud was housed.

We also got to visit the towns surrounding the property in Rivalta including Barolo, Verduno, Novello and La Morra- all gorgeous hillside towns that looked like they were straight from a postcard with their own castle and rolling hills of vineyards, orchards and crops- just brilliant!

Now, about the food…over the whole two weeks Silvana did not cook one dish the same. Each meal (lunch and tea) consisted of at least four plates plus bread (pane) cheese (formaggio) and salami. First course was always pasta followed by meat and/or vegetables. Some of the dishes included risotto with Ortica (stinging nettle) and Fat Hen (another plant we call a weed) and risotto colvino- red wine, risotto funghi (mushies). We had pasta’s with ground walnuts, zuchini (flowers and vegetable), pesto, pomodoro, sage & butter, formaggio, carbonara (egg and pancetta, no cream or milk), ravioli in broth. Vegetables included asparagus mixed with eggs, eggplant with  mint, oil and garlic, boiled zuchini with oil and salt, grilled capsicum with cream of garlic sauce, various potato with meat dishes ususally with a lot of oil and various herbs. All the dishes were cooked in traditional Piemontese style including one worthy of particular mention- raw beef mince with lemon juice and salt! Silvana pretty much forced forkfuls into our mouths (kind naturedly of course) so we had to eat some but it was not something that we are likely to try at home :-). Lunch and tea were always served with wine, either Barbarosso or Dolcetto variety.

Silvana and Enzo’s house was originally built in 1877 for use as a house combined with a cow stable for winter months. Its a huge house but back then the majority of the space was for cows. They bought it around 1982 and renovated it using only natural techniques and recycled products. It is 4 stories high including a cantina (cellar) there are 6 bedrooms that we know of, 3 bathrooms and two huge unfinished unused rooms. The cantina is huge and it has dirt floors, it feels like a fridge and they use to store vegetables and wine. The WWOOFers accommodation was really great, completely self contained with its own bathroom, sitting room and two bedrooms and it was on the top floor and felt like a log cabin- very cool. It was lovely sleeping up there when it was stormy and raining. The family has a few pets to keep them company including a very spirited little dog called Spillo (possibly Jack Russell Husky cross). We had a love hate relationship with Spillo as he was prone to bouts of snapping and biting, the most recent yesterday morning which nearly caused me to faint he was so aggressive- I’m serious. I didnt want to make a big thing out of it but I was shaking as I narrowly avoided a nasty bite- Chris later informed me that this was probably because he had been stirring him up beforehand. Spillo came for a mountain bike ride with us one afternoon and we thought he would turn back and go home after 100 metres but he insisted on coming the whole way- about 10 kilometres- he kept up the whole way and his little legs were still going strong but by the end of  it both he and Chris were puffing a lot and had their tongues hanging out 🙂 The family also has about 5 cats to keep the mice down, two of which (Mina and Mino, collectively known as Min) were tame, the rest were wild. Mina had three gorgeous little kittens while were there- they were very cute, we found them in one of the unused rooms.

Enzo and Silvana do not have a tv and have not had one for sometime, they dont like Berlusconi as they feel that he is corrupt- he apparently owns the bulk of the tv stations so has a lot of control over the content and reporting. Just this weekend gone there was a referendum on the topic of nuclear power, privitisation of water and also the adoption of laws allowing politicians to go without trial proposed by Berlusconi- very interesting! We also noticed a lot of unemployment, a couple of the boys mates are in construction and have not worked for  6 months. Also incomes are quite low, apparently some of their friends earn as little as 400 euros a month for full time work. We were also amused about the Italian peoples concept of Australia and were often told that they had relatives in Australia. When we asked where they lived they would say something vague like “near Melbourne in Tasmania” 🙂

So we left dear old Rivalta yesterday afternoon and arrived at our accommodation for the week in Manarola, the 2nd or 4th town in the “Cinque Terre” and were glad of the rest. WOOFing was an absolutely awesome experience and we were both a bit sad to leave but we have to admit we were very happy to get back to our relaxing! 🙂 So now we are in Cinque Terre but that a story for another blog- we are off to explore ……..and maybe have another swim…….. and a gelati… Bye for now xox








4 responses

15 06 2011
Tim, Zoe and Fransciena

It all sounds great!

16 06 2011

WOW really impressed with your stay with your hosts, sounds like you will need a holiday when you get back! Also the scribe is great Luv John + Leith

22 06 2011

Can’t wait to catch up and see all your photos!!!! Sounds like you are having a great time. Take care Ren xo

22 06 2011

Hi Deanna and Chris, just finished reading it all so far, WOW! xxliz

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