The Vallona family, on my paternal grandmother’s side, was already living here in the 13th century. During the course, I was able to clearly ‘identify’ my idea, revolving around the rediscovery of the farming culture and Casa Vallona’s traditions
In Casa Vallona’s kitchen, Chiara is kneading flour and eggs. She rolls out the dough just like her grandmother Giorgina taught her. She is making the type of pasta that here, in the Bologna Apennines, is called stricat. Rectangles of pasta pinched at the centre, just like those commercially available as farfalle (butterflies). This is fresh pasta, though, not dry, and is made exclusively to be served on the tables of the agriturismo (a farmhouse offering food and accommodation) that Chiara Battistini opened at the end of 2016, in Monte San Pietro, in the province of Bologna.
The flour is ground from Terminillo wheat, grown using the organic agricultural method on the land around the family farmhouse. Born in 1983, Chiara has studied languages and has an understanding of marketing and communication, gained following her graduation and relocation from Bologna to Milan for work reasons. Now, she has come back to her roots, to pick up the threads of a story that was interrupted after World War II.
A story interrupted
Local historians have found information on the Vallona family dating from the Middle Ages, from as far back as the 13th century. “Land registry entries from the 18th century indicate that the property covered approximately 200 hectares of land, albeit these days we only own about ten hectares of that – explains Chiara – At the end of World War II, with the economic boom, a large majority of the population left the Apennine area, turning farming into a marginal activity as opposed to the past”.
“My great grandmother and my grandparents used to come back here every summer – continues Chiara Battistini – and I used to come and visit. I was only a child then, and I was fascinated by the size of this space, full of rooms and objects. It held a mysterious appeal. Eventually, the family home got very close to being sold, but I managed to convince my family to launch into this project with me”.
The renovation of the property, conducted to conservative standards, began in 2015. The year before, Chiara, with her business idea, had taken part in the first ReStartApp, a residential ‘on-campus’ course run by Fondazione Garrone for young entrepreneurs in the Apennines. “My project was centred on food and hospitality. With such a big house, it was important that all available spaces be used intelligently. During the course, I was able to clearly ‘identify’ my idea, revolving around the rediscovery and sharing of the farming culture and traditions.