I’ve been worrying myself, for quite some time, about the fact that I never posted about my adventures in Italy. I’ve decided the start telling that story. It might be while I’m seated down in the kitchens of an old English manor house, and not on a sunny terrace in Piemonte, but I don’t think that will matter in the long run.
In 2013 I went on my first trip to Italy. I knew that I wanted to see my great-aunt, Lidia, in Milano, I knew that I wanted to see my cousin, Arianna, in Roma, I knew that I wanted to see Firenze, and I knew that I wanted to spend 3 months abroad. That’s when my mother and I found Workaway; it looked like a good solution to my wanting to stay abroad for so long, and not wanting to pay for swanky accommodation the entire time. I spent a few weeks on the website looking around, and when I found the good folks at Fattoria l’Aurora (and here on Facebook), I knew we would get along!
Luckily, they thought the same, and after a train and a bus from Milano, I was picked up in Fabbrica Curone, a little village in the mountains of Alessandria, in the north west of Italy. I was picked up by a smiling man in a small truck. He had wild hair, a workers hands, and a thin but muscular build. His English was limited, and my Italian was almost nonexistent, but I knew a bit of Spanish, and he was fluent. I later learned that he is wickedly smart, with a wonderful ability to see the big picture, excite the minutia, and philosophize about the world and life at large. Matteo and I spoke about Alaska and my journey on our way up to Caldirola.
On the way, we stopped at an old man’s farm. I never saw him again, but he looked like he was hewn from the mountains themselves. He seemed about a million years old, strong as ever, with the brown thick skin of a man who spent his entire life out of doors. I’ll have to ask what became of him…
Anyway, we finally made it up to Caldirola. It’s a tiny little village, 1000 meters in elevation. It has a ski lodge for winter visitors, and most of its homes are only inhabited by people fleeing the hot cities for the summer. Cat and Matteo live at Fattoria l’Aurora, with their daughter, all year long. It is their home and their life. When I arrived they had a herd of about 20 sheep, a few horses, three dogs, two cats, chickens, and gardens. Since then they’ve had a few births, and a few deaths among the animals, not to mention a lot of lambs turned into delicious dinners.
Cate scared me the first time I met her. She is strikingly beautiful, but either isn’t aware or doesn’t want to draw attention to the fact. She is quiet and reserved, and very clever. I still find her a bit intimidating, to be completely honest, but she is an amazing woman. She is strong in every sense, loyal, caring, hardworking, a wonderful mother and wife, a clever businesswoman, and a very accomplished author. Her writing is mostly in Italian, but please do have a look! Her blog Beata tra le bestie also has links to her books, Le storie della fattoria, and Una bambina e tanti animali, and she also writes for style.it in her blog with the same name, unabambinaetantianimali. Needless to say, she is quite an amazing and busy woman!
I did so much while I was there, and I liked it so much I returned two years after. Here are a few of the things I did:
I helped put the rafters on a cabin.
I did mountains of dishes.
I baked tarts, cookies, and bread.
I ate pasta almost every day.
I helped herd, feed, and shear sheep.
I collected and stacked firewood.
I ate local cheese and salami.
I had homemade strawberry and amaretti gelato.
I helped make cheese.
I visited a local dairy/agroturismo.
I saw Ulisse, the cat, eat a barn swallow in mid air.
I baked pizza and bread in a wood fired oven.
I ate wild boar, deer, and sheep.
I helped raise a clutch of chicks, and they are LOUD at night!
I played in the sun.
I went out for gelato to an old town with the family.
I met the neighbor, a very friendly dairy farmer.
I helped kids at the farm’s summer camp.
I helped muck out the sheep barn.
I met a bonafide shepherd and his wife.
I ate acacia fritters with honey.
I shoveled horse poo.
I learned traditional Alessandrian dancing.
I went stalking for deer.
I painted a bench.
I went to town where we bought a chicken that escaped her box in the car!
I really don’t know where to end.
I love it there.
There is no real way of explaining how much they have done for me. Cat, Matteo, their daughter Raia, and their close family friend Sara (an amazing artist who is illustrating Cat’s latest book Zoe & Margherita), all made my two visits really special. All totaled, I’ve spent about a month and a half on the farm. I wish it were more. I want to find a way back, and hope that they will have me!
This post was long overdue. I suppose I will have to catch up with many of my stories. I have so many things to share with you all.