Italy isn’t Italy without its countryside. And yes, I know the same could be easily said about England too with our Kentish Gardens, the Lake district and the Dartmoor moors etc, but the countryside of Italy is different; it is literally fed into the very identity of Italy; it is the womb of the country from which its famous cuisine gets its supply of ingredients. The countryside’s tomatoes, cheeses, honeys, meats, herbs, fruits and vegetables all make up the very fabric of the Italian culinary tradition.
After the bustle of Bologna jazz and the busy bicycle city of Ferrara, our tour of the UNESCO world-heritage district of the earthquake-struck regions of Italy brought us to the picture-perfect countryside of Rovigo, a beautiful area of serene calm and peace which, when we arrived, had its belly bursting with pears, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes and a whole array of other ready-to-pluck fruits and vegetables.
The symbolic image of the countryside as the mother of Italy’s culinary passion is embodied wholly in Rovigo in its colourful rows of orchards and vineyards. We spent perhaps the most pleasant, peaceful and relaxing night of our stay in UNESCO Italy here, where we were spoilt to freshly picked fruit, home-made jams and other delicious delights by the owners of the working farm/guest house, Agriturismo Corte Carezzabella.
Owner Chiara and her father not only have a stock of the most ripe and juicy fresh food I’ve tasted all year, but they also have a shed full of bicycles which guests can go riding on for free. At sunset, we took to the almost completely clear road outside the gates of the farm and rode to the River Adige, tributary to the River Po, where the sky, stained red and yellow, melted into the scenery. Distant mountains glowed on the horizon, perching up a low-rising moon whilst the river meandered into the darkening clouds. A perfect way to spend an evening away from the city. Upon returning to the farm, we were served dinner and then shown our bedrooms: spacious, yet cosy rooms with mezzanines and large windows overlooking the courtyard.
The following day, Chiara and her family welcomed us downstairs onto the veranda to enjoy an expansive buffet of their farm’s food produce. A fresh strawberry sorbet was handed to each of us as we piled our plates high, in a moment of sweet gluttony, with their wide selection of cured meats, cheeses, (from intensely creamy and soft to a hard, rich Parmigianno, and a ricotta which tasted like it had been made in the folds of a celestial cloud), home-baked breads, home-made preserves (pepper and pumpkin were delicious), jams and freshly-picked grapes and pears. And, to add an idyllic touch, just a few metres away from the selection of honey that we dipped our bread and cheeses in were the very bees that produced it all in the first place, buzzing away in their hives, busy making the next batch. In the sun, blissfully enjoying the food, the setting and the company, we were also treated to a lunchtime glass (or a few), of a delicate white wine.
Agriturismo Corte Carezzabella is luxurious in its calm and tranquillity. It is a place that, tucked away between the richly dense fruit orchards and vineyards of Italy, demands nothing from you but relaxation: a place to rest tired feet, tired minds and to fill bellies with the finest of foods. Time, quite literally, slows down here and worries simply (although a cliché to say it) drift away.
Agriturismo Corte Carezzabella, Marconi 754, 45030 San Martino di Venezze, (+39) 0425 176157 http://www.cortecarezzabella.com/
words Claire Hazelton
photography Tom Smalley