This is why the couple chose to turn their farm – which was formally set up three years ago under the name Fior di Mandorlo – into an educational farm and not a holiday farm. Simona and Giuseppe say they have two objectives. The first is to bring value to the crops that already grow on the land they own or manage on loan from their parents or siblings. “Even though we are going to move to Marineo, we have no intention of abandoning the plants. In fact, we are looking to expand production” they point out. The 6.5-hectare plot in Marineo, 530 meters above sea level, is going to host approximately 400 almond trees (“I see a large almond orchard in bloom” says Giuseppe, his voice and eyes lighting up as he speaks) of two varieties, Genco and Tuono, which were chosen with agronomist Fabio Calamonaci for their ability to adapt to the extremely hot Sicilian summers. “Almond trees are rustic, hardy plants that do not need a lot of water,” he explains. Some grow also on the plot in Contrada Valle di Fico, Simona’s father’s pride and joy, which, over the decades, he has been able to transform into a proper garden, manually removing boulders and replacing them with olive, carob, and almond trees. These trees are now a piece of family history, which Simona and Giuseppe have no intention of losing.

The route to Valle di Fico winds along the foot of the Moarda, the mountain that looks over Altofonte, with peaks reaching about 1,100 meters above sea level. Before the devastating fires of summer 2020, it was covered with a forest, bearing testimony to the past history of the town, whose inhabitants are called parchitani.


“Do you know what the inhabitants of Altofonte are called?” says Giuseppe. But I am not taking part in a quiz show and the question is just an excuse for him to reconstruct the history of Altofonte, a small town of ten thousand, curled up at the foot of the mountain, in a maze of uphill and downhill streets. . It would only be by looking it up on Wikipedia that I would be able to answer that they are called ‘parchitani’, from Parco (park), the area once being one of the hunting reserves of the Norman kings, who had settled around Palermo during the 12th century. It was, in particular, Roger II who had a country house built here for his holidays, near an abundantly-flowing freshwater spring called Altofonte. It was only in 1930 that the town took on the name by which it is known today.

Fior di Mandorlo’s second objective is that of creating a proper educational farm, designed to engage children, who must be able to move freely. “I studied some experiences in Northern Italy. I worked in Trentino in the summer of 2018 and saw first-hand how these facilities are organised. They are simple, with few built-up spaces. Everything is within the reach of children, who are free to move in very large spaces. They can have direct, and not just visual, contact with the animals and can pet them, because they are not behind mesh enclosures” she says in one breath. Simona has chosen three children-friendly breeds: the Mini Del Guado miniature donkeys (who reach a maximum height of 80 centimetres), the Valais Blacknose Sheep (who, as you can tell from their name, have a black snout and white coat) and the Silkie chickens, originally from China, with a fluffy plumage and a tame personality. “I would like to create job opportunities, in agriculture and education, for young people in the area: this is, in short, what I seek to achieve.”

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