Slow life in Umbria

Passion and love for the slow life in Umbria

Paolo Sapio (44) and his mother Sandra have been struggling for two years to complete the renovation of their farm near San Venanzo. It is Paolo's dream to realize a completely self-sufficient Fattoria Didattica on this spot. I am going to tell you what that is in this article of Polmone's Gazzetta. You have probably heard of the Slow Food movement that originated in Italy. This article is about something more comprehensive, the Slow Life in Umbria!

The Sapio family

We met Paolo, Sandra and her husband Carlo in 2015 because they had started an organic fruit and vegetable shop in San Venanzo. We clicked and we were soon invited to come to their farm. There they kept and still keep various animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, horses, donkeys and chickens. There is a huge vegetable garden, a large olive grove and a vineyard.

A slow feast

To our surprise, the Sapio family prepared a real feast for us using only their own produce. An antipasto that seemed endless with deliciously prepared beans and vegetables from the vegetable garden, homemade cheese from the milk of our own goats and sheep, homemade prosciutto crudo and capocollo from our own pigs. Then of course a primo, a pasta dish, with homemade pasta from antique grains. Then the secondo, the meat. I just can't remember what kind of meat we ate then. And to finish off Paolo had also made a delicious dolce followed by coffee with homemade liqueur, grappa and limoncello.

Needless to say, these too were prepared from their own grapes, walnuts, artichokes and lemons. This seemed like a slow food experience!

Slow life in Umbria

We were blown away by the fantastic flavors Sandra managed to bring to the table with so little space and resources. Shortly afterwards, we naturally also enjoyed introducing our guests to this special place! A place and people who live so in balance with their surrounding nature and so naturally introduce you to the slow life in Umbria, we thought all our guests had to experience that!

But who is Paolo Sapio?

Where does he get the energy and motivation to choose this life? As a child, Paolo always had a special feeling for anything that had to do with farm animals. After high school, he therefore started studying veterinary medicine, specializing in racehorse orthopedics. However, when he finished his studies, he realized that as a racehorse vet he would really spend 80% of his time in the car. Did he want such a life?

Self-Sufficient Living Handbook

His parents Sandra and Carlo had an agriturismo with restaurant in Pieve Caina during his studies. Through their agriturismo, Paolo became acquainted with keeping cows and learned to make cheese in the traditional way. And when in 2005 he received a handbook from friends on how to live a self-sufficient life and saw such a life practiced by a friend of the doctor, he knew what he wanted in life. His goal and passion from then on became the creation of a self-sufficient farm.

Love at first sight

Shortly afterwards he was invited by people to come and swim in San Venanzo and San Venanzo was love at first sight. What a beautiful untouched green nature reserve in the middle of two special nature parks. The Parco Comunale Vulcanologico and the Parco Monte Peglia, now declared a reserve of biodiversity by UNESCO. 

A completely self-sufficient Fattoria Didattica

In 2007 he bought a house there. And when his parents' agriturismo in Pieve Caina was seriously damaged by an earthquake and they saw no possibilities to repair the damage and continue, Paolo decided to buy his own farm in San Venanzo to realize his dream there. Setting up a Fattoria Didattica Autosufficiente, a small mixed farm that is self-sufficient with an educational objective.

Self-sufficient in all means, including water conservation, its own well and rainwater collection, use of solar panels, the application of circular agriculture and livestock farming and a restaurant based on home-grown seasonal products and own slaughtered animals. There was no restaurant like Pieve Caina that ran so well that it actually attracted more guests than they could sustain. The goal with a self-sufficient Fattoria is to receive as many people as you can feed with your own products and no more. Also to show people that you can live in a different way.

Current situation

At the moment, Paolo is about halfway in achieving his dream. He already produces cheese, olive oil, wine, pork, lamb, goat, goose, chicken, eggs, vegetables and antique fruits. Several antique apple varieties were already there, but he added antique varieties of pears and plums. He chose these varieties because they require less water and are less susceptible to all kinds of diseases and fungi, so you don't need any chemicals to keep them healthy. In addition, his goal is to bring back the flavors of yesteryear. He has 10 years of experience in making cheese.

His mother Sandra will soon take care of the restaurant. After all, she has years of experience in the very successful restaurant of their agriturismo in Pieve Caina. Her passion is cooking. There is no greater pleasure for her than to come over for dinner or ask her to cook for a party.

Challenges

There are only a few more challenges to solve.
Firstly, the renovation of the farm has yet to be completed so that it meets the requirements of the municipality of San Venanzo to have a restaurant there, to be able to make cheese and to keep all the animals.

Secondly, 10 hectares are actually still missing. He now has 15 hectares of land, but they are not enough to grow grain and antique cereals there as well. For that reason he still buys his grains from an antique biological grain mill in Pontenuovo.

Third, all the work that needs to be done is actually too much for him and his mother alone. Unfortunately his father passed away a few years ago. And to be able to hire someone, there will have to be more income.
Finally, after the current essential renovation, another renovation will have to take place to create another floor on top of the existing building where the cheese factory and a classroom will have to be built. Then he can give courses and invite schools for an excursion.

Schedule

The planning is now that in 2021 the essential renovation will be ready and they can finally open their restaurant again. We hope that we can introduce you to this special mother and son again. You can taste the fantastic farmhouse cuisine of yesteryear. You might learn the tricks of the trade from Sandra, for example, how to make pasta yourself without a pasta machine. Paolo will show you how he makes cheese. And you might like to come and help Paolo with the olive harvest.

Recipe from Sandra

To conclude, I asked Sandra to give you a recipe from her. She found that very difficult, because she cooks according to her feelings. Has no idea of quantities and sizes. But there is really one very specific dish that Sandra always serves on arrival of all her guests: fried vegetables in a jacket of dough.
Here comes the recipe:

Ice cold water with bubbles
Lots of salt
As a contrast, a pinch of salt
Stir in 00 flour in such a way that it becomes well lumpy
Cut different types of vegetables into small pieces: onion, zucchini, potato and sage leaves are also delicious
Bring one or two liters of sunflower oil to the boil (and use the oil only once!)
Put the vegetables through the flour mixture and let it slide into the oil
Deep fry everything without letting it brown and drain on greaseproof paper
Sprinkle salt on it just before serving otherwise your tempura will become limp!

Enjoy your meal!

Get to know the slow life in Umbria for yourself

Do you want to meet these special people and their special passion next year? And are you curious about their beautiful place under the smoke of San Venanzo and the slow kitchen of Sandra?
Then book your apartment with us at Polmone for free! If Polmone turns out to be sold by then, we will discuss with you what you want with your reservation.

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