We arrived in Pesaro, the nearest city to our first farm, after a couple of train rides and some very strange looks from other passengers as we munched down our lunch - apparently you're not supposed to eat on the train, but the absence of signs to this effect meant we were blissfully unaware... and not starving! The lovely weather we'd had in Rome had deserted us, to be replaced by a chilly wind, which wouldn't be out of place in an Invercargill winter. Brrr.
One of our hosts, Manuela, arrived at the train station about the time we were prepared to open our bags and put every item of clothing on, in a bid to keep warm, so that was a stroke of luck. I had been mentally running myself through the selection of Italian I know, in preparation for a bit of a chat on the way home... and with the help of my trusty phrasebook, Manuela's english (which even though she protests, is still more intelligible to me than the chat of most English teenagers), and some primary school root-word recollection, we managed. First hurdle: jumped, although probably knocked over.
The farm is only small, but it is in a beautiful spot, on the side of a hill, overlooking a picturesque valley. They grow olives, have bees, a veggie garden and chickens, geese, and guinea fowl, which may just be the most ridiculous birds in the world - they make one hell of a racket, and spend more time making this noise than trying to actually run away from whatever has caused it in the first place. They're hilarious to watch though.
We met the rest of the family when we arrived at the house - Ettore, their youngest son, Gregori, the middle son, and Lobo, their dad, Manuela's husband. I'm pretty sure Lobo is a nickname, and that his actual name is Luciano, but I didn't get around to asking. Ettore speaks a bit of English, as they spend 3 hours every Thursday learning it at school - he's such a great kid, full of beans. Both Lobo and Gregori speak english too, so between all of us, we had a pretty great level of communication going, and they mostly tried to speak to us in Italian first, so it was great for me, and I learnt A LOT.
Our first task, and one that took up most of our days, especially Kent's, was putting up a fence around the chicken houses and olive grove - they've had problems with hunting dogs and foxes getting in and taking a liking to their chooks, so this was priority number one. It wasn't quite the same as the fencing we're used to on kiwi farms, but it should keep the predators out and the chickens in. I also did some weeding in the vegetable garden... thought it would be pretty easy, but ended up feeling like I had the back and knees of an 80 year old! It was nice to accomplish something though, especially as, being an organic farm, all weeds need to be dealt with manually, as they can't spray or anything like that. We did a few other bits and pieces, but it certainly wasn't hard labour, and they only asked us to work until lunchtimes, so we spent most afternoons walking around the countryside, enjoying the sun.
The second night we were there, Manu & Lobo had a birthday party to go to, so they invited us along - what an experience! The Italians certainly know how to have a great time, but not in that getting horribly boozed way - the dancefloor was full not long after we arrived, and I would doubt anyone had more than a couple of wines by that stage. There was dressing up, group dancing like we used to do at school, a bit of capoiera (at least I think that's what it was) and a mighty singing of 'Tanti Auguri', which is exactly the same tune as 'Happy Birthday'. The guests were all very friendly towards us, and even though most of the festivities were in a completely different language, it was so much fun, just to be a fly on the wall.
We also went to a meeting of their organic co-operative/exchange group, and to the birthday dinner of their oldest son, Tommaso (who has two boys of his own and lives away from home). Manuela took us to visit the showroom of her fashion designer friend, and arranged for one of their other friends, Daniela, to take us into Urbino with her one day. It was so nice to be included in their lives like this, and it meant I had a big lump in my throat as we left - I do hope we'll stay in touch as they are such a lovely family, and we both agree that this was a wonderful experience.
The big question was, would the next farm be as good as this? Was it possible? Find out in the next exciting installment!...