No matter where you are, if you are being cradled in a gondola in a Venice canal or if you are listening to the story of a centenary wine cellar in Tuscany, when the time to eat comes around you will feel as though you have entered a movie set.
Every single element will harmonise and every flavour will sing along with the others.
Once you have tried the focaccia Genovese or the Fiorentina steak you will not wonder anymore about why the Italian art of cooking and hospitality has been narrated by many, just as the great italian film director Ettore Scola did in his movies.
A flow of spontaneity that will let the camera capture it and the artist put it on paper.
It’s part of our culture and like all the precious things, it needs someone to take care of it with all its secrets.
Every course tells its own story; where it comes from and where it will bring your senses.
Let it speak to you.
Let it involve you.
Let it tell you about who has been taking care of the “materie prime” (produce) and of the hours of preparation.
For the Italian culture, eating is an art.
It’s a sharing and reconciliation moment, that’s why it is so important to be sure to eat something that has been prepared and, most of all, cultivated with love and devotion.
I recognise this kind of care in the education that my family gave me, for us taking care of a guest it’s a sort of ceremony.
The tablecloth will be ironed, seat marker decorated and candles selected.
A kind of preparation that will involve whoever will be part of it and highlight the respect for the guests.
The cutlery will meet the white table linen and the wildflowers seem to know the importance of their role.
Every single detail is a fundamental note for the final symphony.
For centuries, thanks to the auspicious weather and arable soil Italy has been characterised by, we have been gifted an extended and unique production of produce. Agriculture has and is a big part of what Italy is and what has allowed us to learn, appreciate and enjoy the beauty in simple things.
The secret ingredient that unites every single region of the Italian peninsula is, passion. Add a pinch of spontaneity and that’s how the art of hosting someone becomes invincible.
You can feel it.
You can breath it through the streets of the Aeolian islands, taste it in Napoli, enjoy it through the flavours of Bologna.
It’s a beating heart.
As much as the dedication in growing a garden is engraved in the culture of our nation, so it is in the tradition of my mother’s family. She raised me, with stories of her morning fights with the chicken who wouldn’t let go of their eggs so easily, of the games played in the treehouse they had built in their backyard and the afternoons spent driving the family tractor.
I can see it in her eyes the desire to pass down this simple way of living.
The first time she came back from the garden, at our countryside home in the outskirts of Rome, with the results of her work I saw it in her eyes that she was feeling extremely close again to that genuine world that had characterised her childhood.
We should all have a place that makes us feel this way; complete and fearless.
That’s how you will feel when stepping into an italian garden, a feeling of serenity that lingers for days.
The cicada’s sound is unvaried, your eyes seem to run through the horizon trying not to miss a thing, the sound of the ground creaks under your shoes, the hammock will impose the day’s cadence.
We always try to keep our minds busy and sometimes it’s hard to find a way out from our daily routine, that’s why it is extremely important to try to escape the ordinary, no matter if it is in the countryside or on the balcony of your London flat, building up your own garden will makes you feel free and proud of yourself, trust us.
That’s what our garden means to my mother. She has always tried to make us feel an important part of her garden which was fundamental in making it our happy and safe place.
She created many different ways to make us feel part of it, dressing up vegetables to make us eat them, pretending to need our help just to make us put on the rubber boots and gloves, but most of all sharing with us those little secrets that were part of the conversations with her parents by the fireplace.
If you want to be part of these conversations too, be ready to spark your curiosity and to take notes.
LET US FEED YOUR CURIOSITY
1. Go Bio or Go Home
The first step to enrich the soil is to mix it up with “stallatico bio”- a biological fertiliser typical of bio agriculture. Excellent especially for those who want to grow their personal city garden and do not have the possibility of having a natural fertiliser.
Provides nourishing substance to your plants
Increases the soil’s ability to hold moisture and soil’s fertility
During the preparation phase (the step before sowing) you will need to mix up the fertiliser with the soil.
Talking about quantity you can easily follow the recommendations written on the package (15 kg x 100 m2 of soil).
Any nursery or garden center.
2. Who Grows Together, Stays Together
Some plants have a positive influence on others, planting them close or alternated will contribute successfully on each other’s growth.
-Tomatoes love Basil (but don’t tell anyone they’re too shy to admit it)
-Chili Pepper loves Lettuce
-Beans loves everybody; they’re good for every kind of plant
3. Stay Thirsty
Watering plants is essential. Groundbreaking. However what not everybody knows is that not every kind of plant needs the same amount of water and that there are times during the day when it’s better to give plants water.
At night, thanks to the lower temperatures, it is the best moment.
Plants that are most in need of water are:
*Less water for beans
**Chili peppers only need water once every 3 days.
4. DO This at Home
Following a couple of preparations that can be made at home and work as a biological pesticide.
These two will help fight both the parasites and fungus without resorting to the use of chemical substances that would compromise the quality of the products from your garden.
Garlic Infusion – Infuso di aglio
Garlic contains a natural antibiotic substance (allicina) which causes the characteristic smell. This acts as a pesticide and moreover is a rich source of Vitamin C.
75 gr of Garlic
10 liters of hot water
Dilute the garlic in the hot water for 5 hours. The infusion that will be obtained can be sprayed directly on plants (every 3 days is ok) preferably during the evening.
It can be used when an infestation is suspected in order to be able to prevent it.
Tomato Macerate – Macerato di Pomodoro
Tomatoes contain solanina (harmful for humans and insects too). During maturation much of this substance is ejected so the tomato becomes edible. Therefore it is possible to obtain a natural pesticide to be prepared at home using parts of the plant that, otherwise, would be discarded.
Leaves and stem of the plant (which contain the toxic substance) will be soaked in water; from 4 to 5 days if the parts are whole, if mashed, the macerate will be ready in a couple of days.
250/300 gr of leaves and stem per 1 liter of water.
Spray during cool hours directly on the plants you want to protect.
5. They Call Me Pacciamatura
Pacciamatura is a simple operation that consists of putting an organic material (straw for example) around the base of the plant in order to prevent the growth of any weed which steals nutrients from plants.
In addition to controlling the growth of weeds it has some other positive functions such as:
Preserves the heat of the soil, precious for preventing frosts and climatic changes that could damage the plant,
Preserves the soil moisture,
Fundamental in the driest areas and during the hottest periods of the year, and
Keeps the soil soft and prevents it from drying out.
If you don’t have the chance to get some straw directly from the countryside, you can wear your denim overalls and go to the nearest country shop to get some.
Otherwise some dry leaves (even though they don’t look great or sound as good) will have the same effect.
Feed Your Eyes
It’s never just about eating in Italy; the way each table is decorated is fundamental.
Our eyes will be pampered as much as our appetite.
The goal is to make our guests live an experience that will involve all 5 senses, so all the weapons available will be used (you can bet on it).
If you have the possibility to add natural elements which are typical of the setting, you can give the table an unmatched touch that will distinguish it from others.
Seeing is believing.
Rosemary and laurel joined by a ribbon (you choose the color) give a fresh and pleasant scent.
Seat markers made by the collaboration of sage and thyme that can also be used as a gift at the end of the meal.
Zucchini flowers will look after your guests as a bouquet from the center of the table.