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Villa La Petraia

Listed under Gardens in Tuscany, Italy.

  • Photo of Villa La Petraia
  • Photo of Villa La Petraia
  • Photo of Villa La Petraia
  • Photo of Villa La Petraia
  • Photo of Villa La Petraia
Photo of Villa La Petraia
Photo by Donna Dawson
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Villa La Petraia –where we heard the story of bringing the buildings and the fields of Petraia to an organic and biodynamic agricultural life after a forty year dormancy; the restoration of a 900-year old casa colonica; the rebuilding of ancient stone terrace walls; the planting of vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens; and the reintroduction of animal husbandry plus we will enjoy a short olive oil tasting. Owned by Canadians!

‘The first agriculture we undertook at La Petraia was the planting of a vegetable garden. Of course we had our own vision of what it would be, not exactly the same one as our Tuscan friends and helpers. There was much discussion, negotiation and gnashing of teeth, for with a garden, as with all property in Italy, owning it doesn’t make it yours. Tuscans share a sense of possession of not just their own land but of their countryside, for they have hunted on it, foraged on it and cultivated it for centuries. It is theirs. As Canadians, we’re accustomed to a limited growing season, so the ability to grow food in the dead of winter is a miracle. In mid-November we pull up the last of the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, but the winter garden is just getting started. There are leeks, onions, lettuces, cabbages, broccoli, beets, kohlrabi, turnips, fennel, celery, parsnips, carrots, cardoons and brussels sprouts to keep us going until early spring, when fava beans, potatoes, peas and asparagus begin to appear.’

‘Thankfully, the vegetable in Italy, like the child, is adored and worshipped in a thousand and one ways. This is a country that begins in the highest Alps of Europe and stretches a long reach south to within just a few miles of the African coast. There is little call for imported produce. Markets of fresh produce abound, from Rome and Milan to the smallest village in Tuscany or Sicily. Most shoppers look for the vegetables grown close to home, labeled nostrano ('ours' or 'local'). These are always the freshest, cheapest and most trusted.’

‘So why grow your own? Why be bothered to plant a garden? The answer to these questions every gardener knows. Best gets better when you grow your own.’

More than a decade ago, Susan McKenna Grant left Canada with her husband Michael to become an organic farmer and agriturismo owner in Italy. Gradually they brought their ancient, 165-acre piece of Tuscany, La Petraia, back to its profound and lush glory. Providing them with everything from wheat to grapes to olives, and wild boar, hens, rabbits, and deer, La Petraia is a self-sustaining kingdom and a cook's dream domain in the Chianti Classico zone in the heart of Tuscany. With these and many more exquisite ingredients at hand, she presents a repertoire of both classic and modern interpretations of northern Italian cuisine.

About the Book
Winner - Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Award
Winner - Cordon d'Or Award--Best Culinary Literature Book
Winner - Gourmand World Cookbook Award - Best Italian Cuisine Book

Written by  Donna Dawson.

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