Annie Border Collie finds a cosy Faula wood box to sleep in!
The Faula canine soccer team is back in action (if you don’t mind playing with a holed ball!)
A beautiful spring morning at La Faula!
La Faula opened its door as an Agriturismo in 1997. Almost no-one in Italy was connected to the nascent Internet. E-mail was primarily internal within corporations and universities. Only one Italian Agriturismo website was hosted on the web. There was plenty to portend that change would eventually be on the way but most of us lacked the insight to understand the significance of these new but novel and naif ways of managing and presenting information and we harboured a deep and conservative incredulity that rendered us incapable of entertaining the possibility that our known realities could be overthrown in an instant.
Those of us born in the 1960’s in the English speaking world had known only growth, progress and stability. Great, destructive wars had been the reality of the two preceding generations and the desire never to repeat them led us to believe that tomorrow would be like today and the day after tomorrow like the one preceding it. Always a little bit better, with some setbacks, of course, but our belief was that the world would remain pretty much as we knew it. Of course, we lived in the shadow of the bomb, an articulated threat which faced an inarticulate response from the general population. The idea of mankind wantonly destroying the civilisation it had created seemed too monstrous to consider but, of course, we all breathed a sigh of relief when the Soviet Union closed for business.
If we had understood better back then, in 1997, Luca and I would have known that the Agriturismo that we now inhabited and ran was itself a brand new feature on the Italian landscape. Traditionally, if one holidayed in Italy one stayed in a pension or hotel. The lack of legal authorisation prevented hospitality being offered in the countryside and so the cosy country hotels and hotels of charm found amongst the farms that one finds in countries such as France and the United Kingdom never existed in Italy. But in 1985 the first Italian national law to manage and regulate the offer of hospitality on working farms was passed and the Agriturismo came into existence. In 1996 Friuli Venezia Giulia passed its regional law permitting the creation of agriturismi within its territory and in 1997 Agriturismo La Faula received its licence to operate.
In 1996 very many farms in Friuli were still very much family affairs: very small, supporting three or four generations, with some family members also working outside, mainly in public jobs that gave ample time to follow the farm. The idea was that there was an excess of labour available to provide simple but authentic hospitality on the farm so that while dad was out in the morning delivering letters as a postman, granny would be making steaming hot coffee on the hearth and serving hot homemade bread and jams to the guests. It was a beguiling vision but owed more to the romantic notions of rural Italian life of regional bureaucrats can the reality. Rural life in Italy had, until the second world war, been an experience of grinding poverty and malnutrition. Following the war economic growth, the abolition of sharecropping which gave those who worked the land ownership over it and massive State support of Agriculture which included mechanisation, generous subsidies for fertilisers and seeds and the creation of diaries and liveable housing for farmers slowed the movement of people from the country to the city and kept families on the land that they worked. The abundance of riches showered on those working the land, the ready availability of local authority and state jobs paid full time but with part time work allowed the farm to sustain more that its internal economy would otherwise have allowed.
But by the early 1990’s the party was leading to some hangovers. Overproduction of much agricultural produce in Europe had led to butter mountains, wine lakes and the pathological dumping of grains and cereals onto developing markets in the guise of aid but with the effect of destroying local production. Italy’s public finances had come under severe strain and the common agricultural policy was slowly being seen to be unsustainable. But the real problem was that this generous state intervention in Agriculture and the ability for full time farmers to work in state jobs blocked any rational economic development of Italian farms and kept too many people locked into their small farms unwilling to cash out but unable to expand through acquisition. Farming in Friuli was on a “handkerchief” basis. Farmers wanting to buy the few fields that came available on the market were forced to overpay and buy land far away from the location of their farm. Thus Friuli became a region where farmers commuted by tractor to their fields which they then worked for a few hours at the most.
To be continued.
Nellie and Blake enjoying spring 2016 at La Faula!