Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting away from it all

We had such a great time with Sarah and Alessandro that we have found another Agriturisimo business - Ca’ Serena is located about half way between Venice and Treviso in northern Italy. So after breakfast this morning we head out from the Plaza Hotel in Rimini for the 3:45 hour drive up here.

For the first half hour or so, we travel the roads out of the very urbanised Rimini in the middle of the weekday traffic of delivery vans, heavy trucks and suburban housewives going about their daily routine. Today there is hardly any sign of the tourists that now steer this economy - much of the infrastructure is shut up tight for the season - including rows of changing sheds that line the beach for miles.

Once we are out of the urban area, we see that the region has certainly not cut all its ties with the industry that once was its lifeblood. On every small stream that cuts across this delta of the Po River, there are fishing huts high on stilts at the waters edge with their nets on hughe booms, waiting to be dipped into the water to trap the unsuspecting fishes. The last time we saw these was near Les' farm in Bordeaux in France many months ago. Here though they are as thick as the flies that would swarm around them when the nets, filled with their catch (or maybe not) are hoisted from the pull of the waters.

At Savio we pass Italy's largest amusement park - Mirabilandia, although it too is shut up for the winter season it seems. The park has 30 hectares and a waterworld with 10 hectares. In fact the only sign of life that we see is a lone water skier in the lake adjacent.

We are travelling up the coast road - a very busy arterial road that carries lots of trucks involved in carting gravel that is dredged from the river system. This is the delta area of the mighty Po River, the longest in Italy. Again we find ourselves following roads that are on the top of levee banks or dikes. And again there are those fishing huts - obviously the river is a good provider given the multitude of them in this area.

There is much less development here - there are signs for camping areas, some little more than bare paddocks, offering no facilities whatsoever, others more like the recreational parks we find all up the East Coast back home. But there are no glitzy resort developments despite the Adriatic Sea being on their doorstop.

With the European winter season approaching, the crops are harvested and the land lies fallow. Its as though the Poplar trees that provde windbreaks have taken a sigh of relief at being relieved of their irksome duty and throw down their foliage in celebration, so the landscape takes on a wan, washed out look. But there are some winter crops flourishing - carrots and lambs tongue, a sweet, bread leafed plant that is used in salads in Europe. And more land is sheeted under plastic - ready to shield the tender young shoots of plants from the cooling earth beneath them.

Pumpkins are a huge crop here and we pass roadside stalls with every size, shape and variety imagineable. Some of the large ones will only be good for the dreaded Halloween celebrations as we see one claim, while others will still be good eating. Sarah had told us that the only thing they do with large ones is feed them to the cows and pigs. Aunty Flo could certainly have made enough pumpkin scones to feed the worlds armies with the fruit we see here!

Before we know it, we are traversing the outer suburbs of Venice on our way to Silea, 25 kms to the north. So we are back in the built up areas and residential precincts. There are all the trappings of people living together, huge garbage bins on the side of the streets, churches all spruced up, schools, new houses being built and roadworks - more roadworks.

Silea is still in the Po Delta and the are small canals with boats lined up for work or pleasure in a very rural setting. Quite obviously they also use some of the water for irrigation as well. Wonder what the salt levels are like being in the delta? And how does that effect the crops - maybe the potatoes are sold to the chip manufacturers already salted!

We arrive at Ca’ Serena after once again having to do a little exploring once Kates directions end in a field. This is a large farming concern operated by the Busato family who predominantly farm maize. They have just harvested. We have an apartment in a converted old building. This is nothing like the warm introduction of Il Sarale and Sarah and Alessandro. Rather, the two sides of the business are kept arms length apart. We get the distinct impression that we will be left totally to our own devices. For this time, that suits us just fine before another busy two weeks with Donna arriving at the end of the week.

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