Our Final “WWOOF” in Italy – The Sudtirol

And so, once again we have closed our eyes and put our hand into the lucky dip of WWOOFing. To pick a family within whom we become working cogs, from a 100 word description, can surely be hit and miss.

Alas, we have landed on our feet again!

Terracotta provides a sleeping place for the "good" bugs. Less time going to ground to sleep, means more time to eat "bad" bugs.

The Vinschgau Valley, situated in the Sudtirol, produces approximately 400 tons of apples per year. The Sudtirol is the largest producer of Apples in Europe, a total of 1 million ton a year! Of all the organic apples eaten in Europe, this area grows one in every 4! Its superb country, a picturesque valley settled in between the alps, and a beautiful climate. On average 300 days of sunshine a year, 20 degrees here in the valley one day, downhill sking still fully operating 20 minutes away.

The Vill family that we have joined have a 4.5 hectare orchard of organic apples, and grow 6 different varieties including Golden Delicious, Royal Gala and Topaz. The farm originates from 1000 years ago and the Vill family have been settled here for 450 of them. Can you imagine, 16 generations of the one family having lived in the one house!!!

They have recently acquired the hotel next door, LandHotel Anna, http://www.vill.it.  Blessed with 3 sons, Garllos runs the hotel, Stefan is heading to China to learn Chinese, and one son, Kayatan, pronounced Kai,  runs the orchard.

A young Kayatan at work!

And I mean runs! He is a miniature copy of a young Antonio. Passionate about his business, youthful, strong, full of vigor and purpose.  A level of arrogance that has served them both well. We watch him work, today as we help to build the structure that will ensure these 2 year old apple  trees will produce and stay healthy for another 20 – 30 years. Kai loves his work and tells me there is no better job in the world. I think he will live long because of this! He is 25 years old, and runs everywhere. Between each row, from truck to tree, everywhere he can, he runs. Needless to say he is fit, strong and handsome! Did I mention he is 25!!!

Its the kind of work we love as well. Outdoors, clean, not heavy, we listen to the birds as we move, the trees are organic and not effected by chemicals. We work with strong new wire, perfect rods of bamboo, and apple trees at bud burst.

The family farm house, just a 5 minute walk from the orchard, houses a stable with 14 Haflinger horses (originally bred just 3 towns away) that are actively used for trail riding. The farm was here long before the town and the town has literally grown on its doorstep. Silandro has a resident population of 4000 and is the central and main town of the valley of 35,000. It has everything you would need, including an excellent hospital. Its the sort of town that is very pretty, quite sophisticated and yet you can ride the horses out of the front gate on to the road, the local older farmers still go about their town business wearing traditional Tyrolian blue aprons. On traffic duty for 3 hours today as we unloaded a truck full of hay for the horses, I noticed one in every ten vehicles that passed, was a tractor.

At last, I ride a horse in Italy.

Politically its interesting. Whilst Italian by law, they are certainly NOT Italian by nature. The “sons” don’t want to be Italian. They would prefer to be German, Swiss or Austrian. German is the mother language, the food is German oriented, all the signs are in both, Italian and German. 90 years ago this Sudtirol area was divied up to the Italians after the first world war. Still, after their father and their grandfather being born “Italian”, they resist and do not consider themselves part of Italy. Fortunately, the Sudtirol has settled systems that make them mostly autonomous and overall they can accept the situation but would dig their heels in if pressed.

Something I have noticed with Italian people, probably Europeans generally I suspect, is a fierce pride about where they were born. Quadruple this pride if they still live in the region they were born. Then triple this for each generation of their family also born in this region. You can imagine the passion these young, 16th generationalers have!!!

With our work this week, me about 25 hours, Antonio 50!!!, we leave as a little part of the landscape.  The bamboo rods we helped install will keep the trees strong.  It was good work.  As Kai says, you can see what you have accomplished at the end of the day.  Life here has a clear purpose and a strong sense of achievement, giving a deep sense of satisfaction.  And it’s this they live,  day after day, year after year, century after century.

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