Maremma, the Lesser Known Tuscany
In Maremma, a less visited and more rustic part of Tuscany is where you'll find Tenuta di Paganico, an agricultural and livestock breeding estate, and one of the finest examples of sustainable agriculture in the world.
The landscape of Maremma was markedly different than what we'd seen in Tuscany, the soil a light brown because of the amount of clay. There were no longer vineyards, just hay fields. And most amazing of all was an area where swamp has been turned into rice fields, the only place in Tuscany growing rice! In between fields there were stretches of heavily wooded areas. You just never lose interest in this part of Italy because there’s something new around every bend.
Organic & Sustainable
Tenuta di Paganico is a sustainable, organic farm and meat processing facility with 1500 hectares of land (around 3,700 acres). Originally purchased in the 1920s by a Tuscan family, the farm is ironically now owned by a vegetarian whose passionate belief in a productive, sustainable, organically influenced livestock farm drives production today.
We arrived as the sun was warming things up and the farm store was starting to get busy. Our guide, Julia, met us with a bright smile and ushered the four of us into the farm’s utility vehicle.
About a ten minute drive away (which gives you an idea of how expansive the property is) we arrived at our first stop on the farm. through a farm gate and down the lane we saw them in the distance. The large, white cattle were imposing animals with super impressive horns.
The Maremmana Cattle
These were the Maremmana cattle, similar to the Texas Longhorn in the U.S. In unison, the herd turned to check us out standing at the fence as if we were the ones being reviewed. They were impressive.
The herd is intentionally kept small to support sustainability and proper managment of the ecosystem. They stay outdoors year round and take shelter in the woods during the harsher winter months, all by Mother Nature’s design.
Except for the bull of the herd, they didn’t seem very interested in us.
The farm manages two other breeds as well; Chianina, believed to be one of the oldest breeds in existence, and Limousin, a huge heavily muscled French breed. Although each has its own unique characteristics, all are known for the high quality of their meat especially here where they are farmed organically.
You Are What You Eat
Throughout our travels in this part of Italy the all-pervasive philosophy was “You are what you eat”. Consuming organically grown and produced whole foods is the goal - whether or not that includes meat. This was never more apparent than at Tenuta di Paganico. Their philosophy of caring for their land and animals is inspiring.
The Belted Pigs
Having spent time in open pasture, feeding stalls in a barn, and watching some females with juveniles in the barnyard, we hopped back into the dusty utility vehicle with Julia at the helm and drove through a different section of the farm up a hill to another fenced area.
But this time there were not cows, but the Cinta Sinese, the belted pig native to the province of Siena. Considered medium size by pig standards (!), these animals are well adapted and equipped to live as free range animals in the Tuscan woodlands. And that’s just what they're allowed to do here to produce the proper meat and fat.
Several females tending their broods gave us only a moment before bolting into the woods. Julia explained that rounding them up was no easy task which gave us all a good laugh.
By now it was time for lunch, a true and authentic farm-to-table experience. The dining room at the farm was just off the kitchen and nicely set for the four of us. We enjoyed an appetizer from each of the breeds - steak tartare, prosciutto, and Rosemarina crostini - a spread made from lard and pork on toasted bread - and of course, a local red wine which paired perfectly with the rich lard spread. After touring the property and livestock herds, we were pleasantly surprised to find they do all their own butchering on site just off the kitchen. The animals never experience the added stress of transporting them off-site at the end of their days.
WANT TO VISIT?
Are you interested in taking an authentic slow travel, farm-to-table food experience like this? Want to know more about where your food comes from and this model of humane and sustainable agriculture production? This tour is a great example of Italy's distinct regional foods and food production, and may change the way you look at your food forever.
We were introduced to Tenuta di Paganico through Arianna and Alessio with Km Zero Tours. They can arrange a full farm tour and product tasting that's curated to what interests you most. Contact Arianna@KmZeroTours.com.
And if you've ever wanted to stay in a Tuscan agriturismo, Maremma is a great place to do that. Tenuta di Paganico is a working agriturismo and offers accommodation at their farm in fully restored and furnished rural buildings. The rooms and apartments are comfortable and the location offers the unique opportunity of an interesting, active farm holiday, immersed in the nature of the Maremman countryside and in constant contact with the Estate’s daily life.
Tenuta di Paganico - Via Della Stazione 10, 58045 Civitella Paganico, GR , 58045, Italy