La Renaia farm

Azienda la Renaia a Cortona in Toscana

Along the road leading from Cortona to Ossaia lies a small and ancient farmhouse hamlet called “La Renaia”: one of the houses on the farm was once one of the countless wheatmills that back in the centuries dotted the banks of the Essolina brook, a tributary of the Esse river. The hamlet’s original central block, dating back to the 17th century, consists of a large kitchen and an adjacent bedroom /granary on the upper floor and an equally spacious room on the ground floor and has gone over the centuries through several additions to reach the visible dimensions. In the second half of the 19th century the hamlet was owned by the Testini family, who also owned a great deal of land in the surroundings. During the family proprietorship the ground floor was converted into a stable to house Chianina cattle, horses, the erstwhile primary means of transportation, and donkeys to pull the carts, whilst the upper-floor, accessible, then as today, through the typical outside stone staircase topped by an elegant loggia, served as a dwelling place for the tenant/sharecropper. Back then peasant houses had no inside bathrooms and whilst the luckier ones could use a small covered outhouse by the dung-pit, most just went into the cow-shed in the winter and in the fields during summer and spring.

foto della famiglia Lazzeri  proprietaria dell'azienda la Renaia a Cortona in Toscana

 

Lazzeri had pledged that, after renovating the “Poderino” (another family property), he would not hear of builders and carpenters ever again….but, the temptation was very strong and the attachment to that old farm even more so.
So, renovation-work started and brought the entire farm back to its primitive local stone appearance, removing all additions which altered the farm’s original appearance. Under his patient supervision vaults, old bricks, hearths and ancient and time-worn stones came back to light.

foto della famiglia Lazzeri  proprietaria dell'azienda la Renaia a Cortona in Toscana

His daughter, Carola, known to all as Loretta, together with her mother, Maria (Dino’s faithful, quiet and industrious life-companion), unlocked, in the meantime, the dusty cupboards, opened long forgotten old chests, trunks and credenzas piled for years in the sheds and pulled out of these old prints, votive madonnas, household-furnishings, old curtains….All that “stuff” that once seemed worthless and ready for the dust-bin and nonetheless no-one ever dared throw-away was washed and restored, cleaned and carefully polished.
And so, at the turn of the new century, “La Renaia” came to new life ready to welcome all those longing to know and soak-up quiet country life in a god-blessed part of Tuscany kissed by history.
Farming, though, never stopped around here! We still farm cereals (hard-wheat, corn and sunflowers), sugarbeets and garden vegetables, grow vines and olive-trees, all with the help of modern and rational methods.

Prodotto tipici dell'agriturismo la Renaia a Cortona

Our fields are no longer bordered by vines climbing leafy elm-trees in a blurry tangle of twigs and branches; the fields are no longer “streaked by a thousand small ditches and symmetrical rows of elm-trees” which make “the rich Valdichiana an enormous chess-board the rows whereof come closer and closer and blur in the distance and where some farmhouses resemble grey cubes” (R. Schneider – 1907). Lush mulberry-trees, whose leaves silkworms feed on, are hardly any longer to be seen; vines are no longer immersed in young wheat flecked with poppies and cornflowers.

Prodotto tipici dell'agriturismo la Renaia a Cortona

A rationalization of the agricultural activity seemed both inevitable and necessary, due to labour shortage and the practically inescapable use of modern farming machines. Only wine and oil still remain what they used to be back in the days: healthy, genuine, exclusively made from self-produced grapes and olives. From time to time, when the season is propitious and grapes are exceptionally good, we also produce an outstanding Vinsanto we’ll be glad to have you taste!
Around here you can still see lettuce and cabbages grow in small patches, lanes flanked by rows of tomatoes and artichokes, salad covering every inch of land and blooming beans and peas, only apparently randomly alternating. If in season, you may still handpick peaches and apples from the tree, gather watermelons or tomatoes from the garden, all as good and juicy as in the old days and as long as there are some left: we don like to pull the wool over the eyes of our guests: our pantry is in the garden, not in the grocery-stores.

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