Tag Archives: PDO

Alberghi diffusi, the truest luxury is dictated by finely crafted authenticity

The recent Travel & Leisure article entitled Reviving the Italian Village takes a note of vanity efforts afforded by the enormously wealthy. That might seem a judgmental statement, it isn’t. I am grateful for anyone, for whatever reason, choosing to take on the arduous process of heritage preservation.

When Dr. Giancarlo Dall’Ara originated the concept of alberghi diffusi thirty years ago, long before futurists started speaking of circular economies, I believe he aspired to create a noble legacy which would positively impact rural Italian economies by driving tourism, ensuring the preservation of cultural heritage and providing a path to the continuation of a more connected way of living. As urban life has become more complicated and messy, much like the value proposition offered by Product of Designated Origin (PDO) assignation, the alberghi diffusi now has the potential to fulfill a demand for an authenticity remarkably devoid from most contemporary life. I don’t see alberghi diffusi as a Utopian fantasy but a model of socio-cultural, economic and environmental sustainability, scalable and practical in perfect harmony, and logical extension of what I set out to create with Thistle & Broom back in 2003.

The haemorrhaging of rural communities, and the diaspora of countries alike, is not new. Natural disasters and economic hardships have driven great migrations of people to cities nearer, and very far away from agrarian lifestyles for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The currently running ‘Anno dei borghi’, organised by Italy’s MIBACT (Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Activities and Tourism) is designed to entice visitors to explore 18 regions and help manage the impact of the tourism sector growth on Italy’s urban areas – as well as spread the economic impact around.

Creating an alberghi diffusi from a near ruined village without services takes time. Italy’s unemployment hovers around 11%, and is more than three times higher among those under the age of 25. Housing, following the 2016 earthquake, remains at a premium. At the end of a rather long and dark tunnel two emerging trends of isolation as luxury and experiential travel provide a much welcome light. Mind you this isolation is not a minimalistic, silence-only spiritual retreat but one replete with simple but exquisite accommodations, agro-tourism / slow food / gourmet dining, extraordinary privacy and ultra-high speed internet connections – all of which create jobs, and provide economic stability.

It is here that a sweet spot of sustainable development exists, a convergence of yet-to-be alberghi diffusi with a tremendous opportunity to prove systems destined for adoption in Smart Cities. I am not referencing autonomous cars but rather reinvigorating, and making contemporary circular economies which have always existed in communities bound by the ‘butcher, baker and candlestick maker’. The alberghi diffusi model is a solution to any number of pressing contemporary issues worthy of both investment monies and public policies support.

Clean-tech incubated in alberghi diffusi would pull villages off the easily hacked central grid while providing self-sufficiency. What’s more, this model allows those individuals not lured to the bright city lights to continue practicing (or develop) arts, crafts and traditional hand-skills of a region with the market (quite literally) coming to the mountain. Imagine bathing with organic botanical goats’ milk soap and sleeping on crisp linen sheets hand-woven from blue flowered flax grown in the meadows surrounding these villages which a year before was wafting in the breeze and growing tall in the sunlight. That the village is masterfully IoT connected and a set (or two) of those linens can be ordered and paid for with a voice command based upon block-chain technology generates real efficiencies and quality of life for all parties.

The truest luxury is dictated not by fashion, but finely crafted authenticity and the improved efficiencies offered by technology.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Of olives, history and friendships that make us family.

Dining in Tuscany Tablescape

From Under The Tuscan Sun

There is a scene in Under The Tuscan Sun when the characters are bringing in the olive harvest, it is a joyous calliope of work, laughter, friendships and (bound by blood and circumstances) family which is followed by a groaning table, wine and conversation. The truth is I never expected to be in my own version of this favourite movie of mine. As with Frances saying “well, um, I can’t go back to San Francisco” I have uttered similar words this week about the United States.

I met Nicoletta late in July, when her olive fruits were young. I have been invited back to Fažana to experience the harvest and the milling of her 20151004_093124olives. I am humbled to witness the end of the season, the continuation of 3000 years of cultivation here in Istria. Istra, how those living here refer to it, and the Lombardy region of Italy are the two most northerly locations able to support olive trees and yet cycles of weather have periodically threatened and destroyed this connection to human history (most recently in the 1960s).  The oldest olive tree in Istra is on Brijuni, a remnant of a Roman settlement and it is 1700 years old. In contrast Nicoletta’s trees are young, but she knows precisely how old each is, their temperament, their yields.

By education and trade Nicoletta is a truly talented linguist. At the age of 25 her beloved father died suddenly; amongst his legacy to her was this grove. Now 500 trees. Three varieties of olives. She doing what has traditionally been a man’s work. This woman with the same minerals of Istra’s red 20151009_130235earth coursing through her veins that nourishes her olive trees honouring the history of Istra and her father. Nicoletta and her olives. Her keen intellect taking what has always been done here and doing something much more.

I wander through the grove. Taking pictures of the olives, of the trees, of the men and women gathered here who comb the ripe fruit with their fingers unto the soft mesh nets below. It is timeless. Rhythms of life. The nets will be gathered (also by hand) as fishermen would to fill green and red crates.  The crates are loaded into Nicoletta’s mom’s chartreuse green Mercedes minivan, the colour 20151005_195050of some of the olives are in sunlight. The stainless containers for the oil follow the olives, then us. The Balija olives, some of which still hung heavy on spindly branches less than fifteen minutes ago, will be pressed within the hour. I will taste this green gold fresh from their trees a half an hour later. I will weep. I will weep for the connection to history, to the land that Romans made their summer residence, for the blessing of this experience. I weep to know precisely where this olive oil came from, to see it pressed, to feel its silkiness coat my teeth and tongue and fill my mouth with Istrian sunlight. I weep to stand in the Grubić family mill in Bale amidst ancient stone wheels and a museum of rescued relics of the past which make up half of the facility and the modern cold-pressed technology that carries Nicoletta’s legacy to become assigned status Product of Designated Origin, PDO, Istrian olive oil.

So many of our larders are full of seemingly precious (by its price point) EVO and small batch Balsamic vinegars, beautiful cookware and expensive knives. None of you reading this have ever been so intimate with what comes 20151005_201246from the earth as I have been these last months, in this moment standing in the night air dense with the scents of lavender and the crush of ripe olives or tomorrow when Nicoletta will pour this bright grass green liquid gold over tomatoes fresh from the vine for our lunch.

At the end of Under the Tuscan Sun there is a line spoken by ‘Frances’ that all her wishes came true, the wedding and the family in the too big house that so often threatened to swamp her with despair. We create the life we wish, sometimes without even realising that we are doing so in the process. It’s said if you sit at someone’s table and eat with them they give you their heart. Nicoletta was emotionally and physically present at a moment of incredible sadness, stress and overwhelming aloneness for me. She has shared extraordinary cuisine with me, and she and her mom have both invited me to dine at their tables. In my heart that makes Nicoletta the truest kind of family, the one we choose and that chooses us.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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