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Fattoria di Corazzano

Every week in Florence, the Orr family, being a healthy bell-weather of nutrition, receives a basket of organic vegetables, hand-delivered from the Fattoria di Corazzano, a farm about an hour away from Florence. It’s a weekly thing – you pay 15 Euro, and you get you a basket of stuff that you must cook within days to avoid feeling bad for wasting vegetables. It’s delivered by an excitable elfish Frenchman, Adrian, who gives a short, happy speech on each vegetable. “These cipolli (onions), they were harvested this morning, the fagioli, you can eat crudo (raw) ”. He is a perfect emblem of the organic farm – young, earnest, without any cynical pesticides.

Given that we had never been to the actual Fattoria, and with the annual Vendemmia, or grape harvest, going on, we decided to make a day-trip of it. The two possible routes advocated by Google Maps, resulted in a judgment call. Kristin wanted efficiency (55 minutes on the autostrada), I wanted winding back-roads (1 hour 8 minutes). Kristin, being the perfect wife, relented, and we took back roads, resulting in rolling hills, idyllic scenery, and, within 30 minutes, a sick Kristin, and moaning Jasper (due to several hairpin turns, and back-country Tuscan roads being no wider than half an American SUV).

At the farm title= Touching a little bit of Italy

One driver-switch, and 20 minutes later, we arrived at the Fattoria. We had anticipated arriving in the early morning for the Vendemmia, but decided to play it cool, and arrive in the afternoon, to ‘work’ a little bit. A long road bisected the fields as we drove up, creating two plush agricultural carpets. A botega, or farm store, sat adjacent to a recently restored farmhouse, with hand-painted cartoonish signs providing requisite organic authenticity. We were greeted by Carlo, the owner of the farm, wearing a grape-stained white t-shirt, and an old hat that covered a spectacled and work-weary face. “Buongiorno, hello”. I did my usual introductory mumble-Italian, stopping on a dime when I drove into the inevitable unknown verb or noun. “Would you like to speak in English?”, Carlo asked in perfect English.

Carlo, it turned out, literally bought the farm four years ago, after giving up his previous job - selling yachts… in Monaco. Yes, he confirmed, he had exchanged living in the world’s most glamorous city-state, selling the most glamorous kind of boats, for running an organic farm. The romance was bubbling over as he dug his hand into a week old giant vat of fermenting grapes, congealing and stewing in the unmistakable scent of unbridled nature. “It was a complicated decision,” he reasoned. “Part of it, was I wanted to grow my children somewhere else.” Even his sentiment was farmified, which made me like him even more.

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Carlo showed us around, while Kristin showed Jasper stacks of organic baby-food (also produced by the farm) that he would some very near day, consume. We asked Carlo about running the farm, and he replied with an air of inevitability. “Yes, it’s very hard. We’re not quite there yet.” ‘There’ to him, meant selling 1000 boxes of vegetables a week, now he was doing 350. It had proved tough, so tough that the four years of hard labor seemed buried in his sentences. He spoke about his troubles very candidly, with the air of someone who had nothing to hide, refreshingly clear of spin, exaggeration, or preservatives.

After making impulse purchases of organic almond cookies, and fresh, unpasteurized cow’s milk (which amazingly tastes like healthy cream), we walked over to the vineyard, where the harvest was still going on. With the sun fading in the late afternoon, the air was perfect – cool, and light. I joined in with the harvest, taking off my dress-shirt so as to avoid excessive purpling. Harvesting grapes is really pretty simple, a quick cut off the main branch with wire-cutters, scrape out the ‘muffa’, or moldy grapes (these being organic, about 25% of each bunch were scrapers, while the leaves had yellowed and browned in their organic state), and chuck them into a nearby basket. There were about 15 other volunteers, soldiered up and down the lanes. Some young girls were there, who were ‘woofers’, or volunteers who hop from organic farm to organic farm all over the world. Kristin showed Jasper his first bunch of grapes, fresh off a vine, while Bea hung out at my feet as it rained grapes from above. Jasper even tried to put a small grape in his mouth, which he immediately and thoughtfully spit out.

Leaving the vineyard, Carlo gave us a wave, while we considered our next move. This being 6:30 pm, an awkward time for dinner, given that all restaurants in Italy open at the convenient time of 7:30 pm, we killed some time watching five little kids playing soccer, or rather we watched one star kid dominate four other kids. Jasper temporarily stopped his twisting and turning (he constantly wants to move), to watch the kids with a bit of five-month old awe. I wondered which kid he would be. Would he have a Euro haircut, would he be comfortable taking off his shirt, would he be a fast runner? When you’re a new parent, you start thinking about these things.

Lui piace Happy Two guys at the farm

Finally, at 7:30 pm, we walked up to the restaurant, and were immediately told, ‘Mi dispiace, siamo completo’, which means basically, ‘we are full, sorry, so sorry, oh god, you have a baby, and you’re about to make me feel even more guilty, but there is nothing I can do, I am sorry, yes, even though you just asked if you could eat very quickly, and you were waiting for 45 minutes and having a baby is tough, and oh, wow, you even have a dog, and even though I have every table free, there is simply nothing I can do, and yes, I realize that that is absurd because most Italians arrive late for everything and those tables would likely be empty for at least an hour, but again, there is simply nothing I can do.’

One of the good things about parenting, is that you pretty much always have to keep your cool around your baby, so even when confronted with ‘challenging’ situation, you have to act like it’s not the end of the world. Sure enough, we actually found a well-reviewed restaurant 10 Google-Map minutes away, which turned into 25 minutes in the dark, through winding roads, and the restaurant at the end of a long narrow tree-lined dirt road, which at this hour, seemed like the end of the earth.

The restaurant was actually pretty good. Tartufo was the specialty (this being San Miniato, the white-truffle capital of Tuscany). We momentarily confused our waiter with a request to store our fresh farm milk in the fridge - Kristin pointed out later that he probably thought it was breast milk. The branzino (sea-bass) had a strip of pancetta that was easily in my top five gourmet bacon experiences of all time. Freshly fed, tiramisued, and café’d, we drove the hour back home on the wonderfully straight autostrada, Japer asleep in the back, the Italian countryside fading into silhouettes. We arrived home shortly before midnight, realized we had left the fresh milk at the restaurant’s fridge, and then closed our eyes and let it go. With no preservatives, it probably wouldn’t have lasted more than a day.

jasper-grapes-video dave-milk

116 comments to Fattoria di Corazzano

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