Essenziale Come Natura‘s beehives are located on the sides of Mount Sirente, a couple of kilometres from the historic centre of Gagliano Aterno. “The land is on rental, and behind it is a beautiful forest, filled with blooms, many of which are melliferous. So, we know that our bees have food available. Two years ago, we were able to produce three different types of honey, which we got tested by Piana Ricerca e Consulenza Srl, a laboratory based in Castel San Pietro Terme (in the province of Bologna) I had come across during the ReStartApp course. The results showed that two were monofloral honeys, that is honeys made predominantly with the nectar of one flower, while the third one was a mixed-flower mountain honey”, says Elisabetta. The two monofloral honeys are rather unique: one is made from melilot, a plant in the legume family with yellow flowers, which, Elisabetta shows us, grow near the hives, while the other one is made from savory, an aromatic herb. “For us, it was a source great pride, because this type of honey is only made here in the Apennines around L’Aquila and it is recognised as a Slow Food Presidium”, explains Elisabetta, as she uses smoke to scare off the bees, which move to the bottom of the hive and allow her to slowly pull up the frame and check on the cells, the brood, and the queen.

We climb up a few kilometres on Ivan’s pick-up truck, until we reach one of the refuge huts owned by the municipality of Gagliano Aterno. From up here, Ivan and Elisabetta show us the Subequana valley, the area around the lower portion of the Aterno river. “Gagliano also has a medieval castle. Ours was one of the wealthiest villages in the valley. There were prelates and craftsmen, goldsmiths and bell ringers. The view from the belvedere embraces the main peaks of the Central Apennines in one glance. The Gran Sasso to the left, and the Maiella right in front”. Well aware of the many riches offered by the local area, Elisabetta and Ivan have decided to also provide hospitality services and experiences, advocating a different type of tourism, involving education, interaction with the local culture, and the promotion of the local tangible and intangible resources. Together with a third party, they formed Gagliano Experience. “We rent and manage two dwellings in the historic centre, which were renovated by the local municipal council. We organize experiences and walks accompanied by locals. Our goal is to get people as involved as possible, to make sure they live and remember something different and authentic that they would not have experienced elsewhere. Bees can be at the heart of activities: a beehive can become an educational tool for children and adults alike. We all need to learn and dialogue with Nature”, concludes Elisabetta.

I have been thinking of growing saffron. “In October, I will plant bulbs on another plot of land – she says – Honey and saffron go very well together”.

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