Il CERRETO: WHERE WORK AND TOURISM
ARE IN HARMONY WITH LIFE
Paola and Carlo Boni Brivio , the owners of the organic farm holiday “Il Cerreto” were interviewed by Germana Urbani for an article published in the monthly magazine “Biocalenda” issue no.10/2004- edited by the cultural association "La Biolca"
“ We have done everything we can so that our guests feel completely at ease with the natural environment here at Cerreto. We have ecologically renovated all the buildings, meticulously chosen the furniture and accessories to concede restfulness lulled by the sound of the frogs and the crickets.”
And that is how it really is. Spread out on a hill with its soft and natural hues all you can hear is the whispering of the wind at Il Cerreto. The light cotton curtains phlegmatically sway at the white window inviting the senses to be lulled into a world which seems to be floating in the sky.
The Organic farm holiday Il Cerreto situated in Montegemoli in the province of Pisa in Tuscany stands out like a gem amidst the hills with a view of Volterra, just a 15 minute drive away.
Here in the upper Tuscan Maremma, Carlo, Paola and their 5 children have reinvented their lives, leaving the chaotic life of Milan behind them.
He, an affirmed financial consultant, she a biologist working at a hospital one day decided to turn a new leaf. “ We had a spiritual conversation” as Carlo puts it in a nut shell. “ Life in Milan was becoming impossible , far too hectic, and I began to loose interest in my work. I was also the editor of a monthly magazine called “ The Third Millennium” similar to Nexus magazine and the more I got into the issues the more unsatisfied I became".
"As a mother” continues Paola “ I could not stand the idea of bringing up my children in a city not designed for children and without any green spaces. I, myself, was brought up in the country so when Carlo suggested we live here I happily agreed thinking how wonderful it would be to bring up my children in natural surroundings. We left when our third child was only 12 days old."
What really triggered this change? What was it that changed you?
"Before I left Milan I kept asking myself what I was really doing for Life and it was a question that actually changed my life. I now believe we should all ask that question for it is so important that everyone does something important for Life, no matter where you live or what profession you may have, as long as you support life as an absolute value. Once you realize the predominant system is unsustainable you can only look for a way of changing this condition. We have been here for six years now running a large scale organic holiday farm.
What are the advantages of this method?
There are mainly three: completely toxic free waste in the soil and plants, low cost preparations due to high dilution and holistic management practices. The food produced by this working method should also be attentively evaluated for its increased energetic level, although, at present, it is not possible to measure the energy content in foodstuffs. And yet there must be a great difference between food grown by a method based on the increase of vital life force concordant with the seasons and food grown by intensive farming that travels great distances and often from distant lands. We should all think about this and choose what we eat without worrying too much about the price. This new method of farming is also educational and value seeking for it teaches respect for the environment, how to lead a healthy existence and respect for every form of life.
As I ,myself, experienced, all the guests that stay at Il Cerreto naturally perceive this healthy way life.
"Certainly - continues Paola- when we began the restoration work our main objective was to create a healthy environment. Il Cerreto is composed of an 18th century tower surrounded by two groups of farm houses built at a later date and offers 7 apartments, two are two room apartments, three are three room apartments and two are four room apartments.
5 apartments are located in the main building and 2 recently restored apartments are located in what was once the school house. The ecologically restored rooms are located in the 19th century building, the heart of the farmstead, where there is also a restaurant, a T.V. lounge and a seminar and course room. The furniture and beds are in naturally treated wood. Geomagnetic field tests have also been carried out on the buildings so that the furniture has been placed to ensure the ultimate wellbeing of our guests.
The aim of all the restoration work has been to create a healthy and natural environment. 60% of the electricity supply on the farm is supplied by solar panels.
We are particularly proud of the restaurant that also offers vegetarian cuisine prepared with ingredients produced organically on our farm".
There is also a swimming pool that looks more like a beautiful moat amidst the flowers.
"Yes. As we are in the open countryside, 35 km from the coast we decided the holiday farm needed a swimming pool but we did not want to build a normal cement swimming pool. We finally found a project that was just right for us and from this summer there is now an ecological 100 m lake for our guests to swim in which totally blends in with the surrounding environment. It is a vital ecosystem integrated by the flora and fauna. The water is naturally regenerated just like river water. The aquatic plants which border the swimming zone purify and filter the water that flows into the small regeneration lake covered by a bed of reeds. Here the water is purified by the rocks, sand and zeolites and is then pumped and oxygenated back into the swimming zone. As this purifying cycle is natural and chemical free, the water is a living organism with a pleasant aroma during the summer months".
Your produce is special and very highly appreciated.
"The farm mostly produces cereals and pulses grown by rotation. We grow kamut, durum wheat, wheat and spelt, pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans as well as rotation crops . This year we harvested 2000 ql of cereals and 250 of pulses. This is objective data that proves the validity of this method of farming. There is also a vegetable garden where we grow the produce for our restaurant and we also produce olive oil, honey, vegetable sauces, preserves, jams and fruit juices. We also produce a little cheese as we have a small herd of lively goats! We have recently purchased machinery that cleans, selects and packages the cereals and pulses in a protected environment. The flour we produce, on the other hand, is sent away to be organically made into pasta.
Do you have any new projects for the future?
Paola smiles and tells me that despite the work on the farm and three young children she has been taking a specialized university course on medicinal plants. “ After a year of being here I felt a little lonely and decided to branch out on my own speciality and enrolled in an university course. I am now experimenting. I have planted some aromatic plants and saffron on which I did my thesis. It is a product with infinite properties that has been grown here in the Volterra and San Gimignano area since antiquity. In the future the farm will also produce healthy herbs. Very few people know that 85% of the herbs we buy in the shops come from countries that still use pesticides that we have not used for years now. I would like to produce bags of aromatic herbs that go well with pulses and other produce. This is much more than just a hobby for me".
I leave Il Cerreto meandering up and down the hills enflamed by the sun.
I look at the land and what it produces and ask myself: what am I doing for Life?