BEAUTIFUL NEW WORLD
Beavering away at achieving a sustainable world can be soul destroying. One begins to doubt the dream and wonder if the world is ready for it. Taking a holiday with my family seemed to me a smart idea, but smarter still was my daughter’s suggestion that we test a SLOW LIVING villa in Tuscany. This was someone who claimed success. A week at Villa Il Fontanaro in Umbria is proof that a sustainable world is indeed possible and oh, so desirable.
A clear intense blue sky, swathes of yellow sunflowers, trees of every hue and shade of green and villas of natural stone and brick are the first hint of a clean and natural world, suggesting that even in these polluted noisy times, there are places where parents can build a world based on a dream of Eden. Local grown fruit and veggies, organic cheese, salt water pools, fly screen instead of sprays, honey from antibiotic free bees and virgin olive oil for the Olympian gods were part of this dream. In these parts goats and lambs meander and ma-a-a and wine is bottled from organically grown vines.
But Adam well knew, we must live by the sweat of our brows and the ease of Il fontanaro demands serious commitment from the mother and daughter who manage and master this sustainable world.
Their prime commitment is to their olive oil production and knowing what we now know about the health benefits of (genuine) extra virgin olive oil, their imbibing large quantities of it must surely contribute to their vibrancy , vitality and success. Once you have tasted the natural tang of olives grown organically, pressed at the perfect moment of ripeness, quick bottled and multi awarded, you will never have to rely on labels again to differentiate fake oil from the real ambrosia.
An added treasure to Tuscany and Umbria is the survival of the small village and community investment in local culture. People here did not need the latest research into happiness to teach them that a strong community and rich cultural heritage promote a healthy happy life. Il Fontanaro is surrounded by villages reaching back to Roman, Etruscan and Renaissance times. Florence, Pienza, Assissi, to name but a few, throw a dart in any direction and within one to two hours you are in well preserved, historic villages. Archways, cobbled streets, mountain vistas and glorious art works, draw you back to an ordered past where wars and conflicts are long passed, leaving only the traditional cultures, carried out with fun and humor, commitment and some craziness.
The apparent simplicity of life is deceptive, since all the people we met through the Pinellis are skilled, competent and successful farmers who market top grade produce into Europe the United States. They know about history, culture and commerce and access IT not for brainless diversion, but to keep connected to the larger world. For them going forward also entails going back, to eating food in its season and covering ground with natural clover rather than weed killer tainted grass, even if it is mowed by robotic lawnmowers.
Was there something in this air centuries ago that inspired a Pope to build an ideal humane town, Pienza; that moved ST Francis to build an order in Assissi dedicated to caring not only for humans but also for animals and nature and that inspired Giotto to decorate a church with exquisite friezes suffused in light? If this is the result of sustainable living, why should we ever settle for anything less?