There are people who have left the city and a reassuring office to move to a house in the woods, among animals and fields to cultivate. People who have chosen to retreat to a corner of the Apennines to welcome tourists from all over the world in the quiet of the countryside. People who transformed a dilapidated farmhouse into an artist's residence, those who recovered an historic cellar and those who took inspiration from their grandmother's traditions to give rise to an anrtistic pastry shop in a small mountain village. Emilia is rich in stories of people who had the courage and the initiative to change their lives. People who have found among the natural scenarios of the provinces of Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia the ideal places to reinvent themselves, following ideals and talents.
Graziella Urso and Mauro Turini worked in an advertising agency near Milan, but driven by their love for animals, they decided to leave the city and to begin a new life in Val di Taro. Here, in the amazing landscape of the Emilian Apennines, they opened in 2000 the Agriturismo Ca 'Bianca di Ostia Parmense, a stone farmhouse, today with a swimming pool, where it is possible to admire the valley and enjoy a well-deserved rest. After training courses and a lot of effort, they began to cultivate. Today they cultivate a large vegetable garden, from which the fruit and vegetables that enrich their dishes are born. There, they host tourists, produce jams and biscuits that are also sold online, apricot trees, cherries, plums and apples, hens, horses, two donkeys, a pony, dogs, cats.
Chiara Palumbo and Stefano Costa, now just over forty years old, were living in the province of Varese when they embarked on a new adventure. “What happens in the movies happened - says Chiara. - One day, almost as a joke, we started looking at rural structures on a real estate site and we were struck by the cottage that today is the B&B Il Pozzo e La Macina di Bardi (PR). At that time, Chiara worked as a tour guide and despite living on Lake Maggiore, she was in love with the landscape and the nature of Apennines. Stefano has Emilian origins from his father, who has there a family home. When they left for Valceno, he moved the headquarters of his tour operator to the B&B, deep in the green countryside, where there was once the farmhouse's stable. The structure, dating back to the period between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, housed a wheat mill (today it’s Chiara and Stefano’s house) and a brick and lime kiln, where the guest rooms were created. All around, the scents of officinal herbs spread and there, visitors can find a particular vegetable garden built with disused wooden planks recovered from a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory created by Chiara, who cultivates, with sustainable methods, fruit and vegetables that enrich their tables or turn into chips, herbal teas and infusions. Il Pozzo e La Macina is also a home restaurant where you can taste zero km recipes and handmade pasta. A new life in constant evolution.
Marco Profumo worked in Milan as an IT consultant, while his wife Silvia Mandini in a company dedicated to medical-scientific communication. When their second daughter was born, they spent the summer in the hills of Piacenza, thinking of giving up everything and going to live among vineyards. They landed in Ziano Piacentino (PC), where they fell in love with Cantine Mossi, an historic company that has its roots in 1558 and they decided to buy it. Tracing the history of 14 generations of winemakers, today the Profumo family cultivates and produces traditional wine varieties from the Emilia area, including Barbera and Croatina for red wines and Ortrugo and Malvasia di Candia Aromatica for white wines. In recent decades, the family took care of Malvasia Rosa, a very rare variety produced by only three wineries around the world, that became Marco's favorite wine. In the farm, we can find also the Peasant Museum enriched with a collection of agricultural and oenological tools and machineries.
Alessandro Traverso left instead Genoa to come back to the places of his roots, in Val Trebbia. When he was a child, he loved spending time with his grandmother Luisa in the countryside of the upper valley, among farmers, cows, the flavors of hay and above all, the fascinating aromas of its traditional sweets. At the age of 22, following the perfumes of his childhood, he came back to Val Trebbia, and after having learned to knead in a bakery, he opened a shop in Ottone (PC) in an abandoned bus garage, only half an hour from Bobbio and not far from Liguria. There, he specialized as a pastry chef, recovering his grandmother's recipes to create artistic desserts. The delighting sweets produced by the Antico Mulino di Ottone - a name that takes inspiration from a village mill dating back to 1200 – are produced by hand, as it once was, and they vary from biscuits to pastries, such as canestrelli, schiacciatina, traditional sweets, nougat with local honey. Coming here is like sitting at the table in an old country kitchen. Alessandro's activity involves the whole family: his wife Patrizia, who Alessandro met when she was a shop assistant and with whom he has shared his life and work for 26 years, his sons Davide and Daniel, who already know how to put their hands in the dough, and finally Sara, the partner of the son, who takes care of social communication. From the market and the pastry shop, the Antico Mulino then expanded into an ice cream parlor and a café.
Angela Viola is an artist from Palermo, Marco Vianello travels between Italy and Holland for work. They met in Milan in 2015 and together they decided to change their lives, moving away from the city. During a motorcycle ride on the Apennines of Reggio Emilia, they found a farmhouse for sale and within a year they moved there. «We were thinking of creating a B&B, but also a place that could become an artist's studio. The cottage dates back to 1882. It was once the town's inn. Without knowing it, we inherited a story », says Angela, revealing the origins of what is now La Bottega 13 B&B in the small village of Cereggio, not far from Ventasso (Reggio Emilia), from which there in an incredible landscape on the Pietra di Bismantova. A B&B that is also an artist's residence. The artists come from every corner of the planet to experience the places of the Reggio Apennines, participating in painting courses in the open air, or becoming protagonists of the Venti Contemporanei festival, organized by Angela. In the inspiring land of Apennines, they van also contribute to the AltreterRE event, which sees them engaged in creating artistic works that will be integrated in the Emilian territory.
Arianna Ceccardi was born in Bergamo and she lived there for all her life, until four years ago. She was working as a freelance architect when she decided to return to the places where she spent weekends with her family, to take the reins of the Carpe Diem Refuge in Ligonchio (RE), at 1579 meters above sea level, deep in the landscapes of Monte Cavalbianco in the Apennines of Reggio Emilia, where the Pradarena Pass is located. In the 2000s, the parents invested in a farm that raises Chianine cows in that area and they bought it. Then, in 2017, Arianna arrived: «I left everything and I put myself in the game - she says -. Despite many difficulties, certainly the quality of life has improved, thanks to the contact with nature ». In the refuge, which includes a hotel, a bar and a restaurant, like 50 years ago, Arianna hosts people who are looking for an escape from urban chaos to lose themselves in the natural beauty of the Apennines and to participate in trekking walks among its peaks. Visitors are also pleasantly struck by the typical dishes of Emilian and Tuscan cuisine, prepared with local products and from the family farm, and Chianina meats risen with the organic method. The next project is to create a teaching farm.