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Like a moth to the flame I’m drawn to the word organic. So, when I discovered Italy Farm Stay, a working organic farm that welcomes visitors in the Italian countryside, there was little question I’d be booking. Located near the Abruzzi National Park a two-hour drive south of Rome toward Naples, it was the perfect getaway from the city for us.
Since we were flying out of Fiumicino Airport (FCO) at the end of our stay in Italy, we packed up our stuff the last day in Rome, hopped in a cab to the airport and rented a car there. It took the over two hours (sigh…) to wait in line and fill out the papers at Europcar at FCO despite having made an online reservation months in advance. But, once we were on the road we felt pretty excited to be venturing out on our own!
You don’t need a car at the farm and most of the other guests we met had arrived via bus or train into Sora and arranged for someone to come and collect them. The main town of Sora is small but you’ll find restaurants, shops (even high-end clothing stores), gelaterias and churches galore all lining the banks of the river Liri surrounded by the mountains.
If you love the outdoors the farm has plenty to offer in addition to simply relaxing, eating, drinking homemade wine or doing daily yoga. You can’t prebook activities, just let Antonello, the owner, know that morning if you’d like to join them for whatever is planned. I loved this concept because it took the pressure off of me having to do more advanced planning. Some things are weather dependent, like horseback riding, so you can play it by ear. Meals are also arranged the same way. Bring cash to pay for whatever you decide to do at the time you do it.
As someone who loves to cook I almost never pass up an opportunity to learn to cook and learn about the local fare whether at a formal class or in someone’s home kitchen. Learning to make fresh pasta at the farm with Maria, Antonello’s mom, is the best of both. The kids really got into it and we ate what we had prepared later that evening for dinner. You’ll never want to look at another dried noodle again!
On another morning we got up at the crack of dawn so we could go into the village and learn how the shepherd makes cheese. The 5:30am wakeup call was nearly enough to erase my love for cheese, but again, I can’t resist all things food. Of course the shepherd goes out to milk the sheep at 4:00am! He brings the fresh milk right to the shop, which is why you need to be there so early if you want to see the magic happen.
Still, I was most excited about the truffle hunting excursion. Like, over the moon excited. I’d never done it before. What better place to walk at sunset in the gorgeous rolling hills amidst olive groves and grape vines with three of the cutest truffle sniffing canines you’ve ever seen? Nowhere. Right.
Antonello piled us all into the passenger van at the farm and we headed out into the village to meet the farmer and his dogs who led the way. Nearly any dog can be trained to hunt these earthly delights but the farmer said prefer small dogs are preferred because, get ready for this, they fit better into the back of the truck!
In Italy they hunt black truffles in the summer and white truffles in the winter. Like diamonds, they are rare enough and quite expensive. They have a very distinct odor and flavor and you will probably either love or hate them but at least once in your life, try them!
In the end the dogs found at least a dozen black truffles, which the farmer could then sell, but not before Antonello snagged a few for us to take back to the farm to eat with our evening meal. Special thanks to the cook, Maria, Antonello’s mom, who made a truffle topped bruschetta that was so good even my kids liked it!
As luck would have it during out stay, the local village was hosting an outdoor festival at the local church, complete with live entertainment and locally made food and wine. We had a blast until nearly midnight and it gave us a chance to hang out with other guests from the farm. In fact, that was one of the most enjoyable aspects to staying at Italy Farm Stay. Meals are served on the terrace at large tables, family style, so it’s easy to converse.
Like everywhere else we’d been so far, we were making new friends fast, learning so much from the people we’d met along the way. Gratefulness saturated every fiber of my being.
Travel will do that to you if you let it.