#10 Fermenting Soya, Phatty Ponies and castles

Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Saturday, July 24, 2010

We last left you about 6 weeks ago. Having travelled to Arezzo to a new WWOOF farm, we cut our 3 week stay short by 2.5 weeks as 2 days was more than enough….volunteering and living in someone’s home is a very personal thing.  Sometimes it’s a wonderful community feel where everyone’s personalities are in harmony. And sometimes that person is rather unbalanced so it’s best to cut the trip short.  Let’s just say that our ‘room’ was adorned with one of 10 100ltr containers of fermenting soya beans (see photo’s for proof) and that our host had a phobia of hats being on tables and people putting eggs into cups. Not happy (see photo’s for proof). The stay ended with an honest, ahem, ‘discussion’ and a swift trip to the train station. To sum it up: it was short but intense.

So we re-packed our homes, shouldered the backpacks and took another train ride of emancipation – this time to Florence. Unsurprisingly we had a great time in Firenze (my first time, Liz’s third); we unintentionally stayed across the road from where Mother Laughton became momentarily ‘zero’ a few years ago.  That aside it was a great location, 3 mins walk from the duomo (beautiful green marble gorgeousness) and 10 mins walk from ponte vecchio.  It is such a beautiful city, and we both agree that compared to Rome it wins hands down in all departments – less busy, less touristy, easier to traverse, better gelato.

While in Florence we re-grouped and contacted a few more WWOOF farms, finally deciding on a property just south of Bologna and thinking all the time ‘ third time lucky, third time lucky’.  So we set off again, another train, another journey to a life unknown. Needless to say we were very nervous waiting for out new hosts to pick us up at the station… will they have three heads? Will they live in a goat shed? Oh god what if they are crazy. And thank god they weren’t. Sophie (French-Canadian) and Stefano (from Ravena – on the east coast of italy) live in a large house in a 100HA park just outside of Bologna. It’s just stunning. And with the added bonus of a distinct lack of buckets containing fermenting foodstuffs, we were in heaven.

Sophie and Stefano live in this lovely old farm house (Casa Margarita) and work with the land as part of a co-operative that manage the park, which means that there’s always plenty of people hanging around, always someone new to meet. They have 2AH of veggie garden which kept us extremely busy for the time we were there. They also have goats, chickens, geese and cats (including two new kittens, Liz and Oni). The work has included a lot of weeding (urgh) although the garden looks amazing now so it’s worth it. Also we have been fruit picking around the park (plums, figs, mulberries) and making jam with our findings. The last week here was consumed by picking all the garlic and onions (a LOT) and finding ways to store them. We smell lovely right now.

Sophie and Stefano have been really wonderful, it’s been so refreshing to meet such warm and welcoming people. They have introduced us to the best pizza in bologna, the best pasta in bologna, and of course, the best gelato in bologna.  We were going to stay for 3 weeks but have stayed for 6 and could happily stay longer.  For 2 of the 6 weeks there were another 5 WWOOFers here as well, and we had a lovely family of 9 every day working in the garden, having G&T picnics on the park, cooking up lovely vegetarian meals and giggling our heads off. Big ciao to the Anton’s (and Ho – the honorary Anton), miss you all xoxo

A few highlights from our time:
- Learning Sophies Secret Sauces (watch the food blog for recipes)
- Being photographed for the local newspaper, and the photographer turning up WITHOUT a camera and asking if he can borrow ours…?!
- Finding the Candy Bar!
- Liz’s birthday! I made sushi (such a treat! And very hard to find the ingredients here…) and we had a lovely picnic followed by dinner with stephano and sophie and a sleep tucked under a large sambuca tree with the glow-worms.
- Trip to ravena to get some well earned beach time
- Phatty Pony; Shitty Kitty; Yeah, Buy Me A Chicken; Chicken Karma; Yes But They Are Freak Person, No?; Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, YEAH!

And….Summer. Is. Here. Last night at 7.30pm it was 35 degrees. Very hot indeed.  Because of the heat, and some knee pain that Liz has had, we decided that we would look for an alternative to volunteer work for the next couple of months.  So we did some searching and found a house sitting job, that we start today! So it’s goodbye to 6 hours gardening days and hello to vacation time.  We’re both really looking forward to some R&R, and the house…well…it’s huge and amazing and it’s pretty much a castle.  We’ll post photos soon.    

So really we have had an amazing month and are set to surf this positivity wave for the next couple of months too. We miss everyone and can't wait to see you. Love to you all. xoxox

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