Tenuta di Paganico: A Model Farm-to-Table Experience in Maremma, Tuscany
If you love the concept of slow food and slow travel, and the farm-to-table experiences that often go along with this way of eating and traveling, you’ll love a visit to Tenuta di Paganico in the part of Tuscany that few visitors ever see.
The concept of slow food was born in Piedmont Italy in the 1980’s, a sort of protest to the growth of fast food in the region, and what many locals felt was a move away from quality food. Not only did Italians perceive this proliferation as a scourge on the good food Italy is known for, but the idea of any food prepared fast flies in the face of what Italian food truly is at its heart — cooked carefully and simply with love.
Beyond the blasphemy that Italians surely felt about fast food, it must also be said that fast food just isn’t good for you. The genetically modified foods, preservatives, and a host of other questionable ingredients in it just aren’t good for your heart, your weight, or anything else. Besides being a quick and lazy fix, there aren’t many upsides.
All of these factors are what started the slow food movement in the 80’s, which then transcended into the slow travel movement, a way of traveling that embraces the tenets of slow food. Say hello to Tenuta di Paganico, a model farm for humane and sustainable food production, ristorante, and agriturismo.
What is Slow Food and Travel?
So what exactly is slow food, and slow travel? The slow food movement of the 1980s was a move toward producing quality food that’s healthy and flavorful, easy on the environment, and fair and accessible to consumers and producers alike.
According to Slow Food International, the global, grassroots organization founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, the concept of slow food comes down to three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.
GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers
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 Italy, maybe even the world.
The landscape of Maremma is markedly different than what most visitors see in Tuscany. You won’t see many roads lined with cypress trees winding through the countryside, or many vineyards for that matter as the soil is a light brown with alot of clay. But you will see hay fields.
Most amazing of all is an area where swamp has been turned into rice fields, the only place in Tuscany where they grow rice!
In between rice fields there are stretches of heavily wooded areas. You just never lose interest in this part of Italy because there’s something new around every bend.
Maremma may not be on your Italy bucket list, but if you love slow traveling, getting out into this unique part of Tuscany is a perfect experience.
Tenuta di Paganico
Organic & Sustainable
Tenuta di Paganico is a sustainable, organic farm and meat processing facility with 1,500 hectares of land (around 3,700 acres). Originally purchased in the 1920s by a Tuscan family, the farm today is ironically owned by a vegetarian whose passionate belief in a 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.
The Maremmana Cattle
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.
These were the Maremmana cattle, similar to the Texas Longhorn in the US. 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 management 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.
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.
After our tour, it was time for lunch. 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.
This was without a doubt a true and authentic farm-to-table experience.
After touring the property and livestock herds, we learned that 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, which is widely considered stressful and inhumane.
If you've ever wanted to stay in a Tuscan agriturismo, Maremma is a great place to do that. Tenuta di Paganico is not just a working farm, but a unique agriturismo as well. Located in Tuscany’s Maremma region, it’s still close enough to Florence for a comfortable combination visit to both places.
They offer 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.
You Are What You Eat
Throughout our travels in this part of Italy the all-pervasive philosophy is always “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 and their philosophy of caring for the land and animals is inspiring.
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.
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 perfect portrait of Italy's distinct food regions 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.
Tenuta di Paganico - Via Della Stazione 10, 58045 Civitella Paganico, GR, 58045, Italy
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