Sunday, July 31, 2016

Italy Wrap Up

Prior to the last couple of days on our trip we said farewell to a few in our group who are either headed back to the USA or off to explore another country in Europe. The rest of us set out to explore the ancient city of Pompeii. This city came to a stand still as Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. killing and preserving everything in its path. 

On a two hour tour we were able to walk through the city learning about how the sea shore, now 4 km away, came right to the city's edge. We saw where wagon wheels wore down the stone streets, brothels, men's restrooms, a woman's spa, the city center, the church, homes and city shops. All are ruins that have been uncovered and are still being uncovered. We finished our tour at the Amphitheater, a three story theater in its day where people sat based on their social status.

This was the outskirts of Pompeii, where boats could anchor as the sea once came to the city's edge. 
The volcano left ruins perfectly preserved. Please note that the sculptures in this
photo are not from the original Pompeii. The ancient city also serves an art display.
Many of the street were lined with shops and restaurants. Tiles were left in place and art preserved on the walls.
During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allows people to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died. Every one I saw showed the people covering their nose and mouth, likely because they couldn't get their breath in the aftermath of the volcano eruption.  
The streets were just wide enough in some places for a wagon to travel. Here the evidence
of a heavily traveled street shows the wagon wheel tracks on either side.

Following the tour of Pompeii, we spent our two final evenings in Sorrento and last day exploring the Island of Capri before we headed for home on Friday.

On our final day we were free to explore Sorrento and the surround area. Everyone decided
to catch a ferry to the Island of Capri. This is the marina where our ferry dropped us off.
Dawn Nagel and myself decided to make our way to the highest point of the island (This
view is from a cab ride we took to get to a chair lift.) while others took a boat ride
around the island and still others explored the shops and eating establishments. 
Dawn Nagel taking a 13 minute ride on the chair lift to the highest point on Capri.
Once on top we could see for miles when and where the clouds cleared.  This is me, Rachel Mehlhaf, at the top. 
Our final meal, some of the best wood fired pizza we have ever eaten, took place on the
water front. We had the pleasure of viewing a beautiful sunset on our walk to the restaurant.
Thank you for following the SDARL Alumni, spouses and friends on our tour of agriculture, history and culture in Italy. It has been an honor for me to tell you about our experiences and I know we all look forward to sharing more now that we have made it safely back to South Dakota.
-Rachel Mehlhaf, Class IV 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Roaming in ROME

On Monday evening and Tuesday we explored the sites and sounds of Rome. Rome became the capital of Italy in 1871. This city has a population of 2.9M within the city limits and another 4.3M in the surrounding area. During its Golden Age in 117 AD the Roman Empire had up to 120M people. When it dwindled the population dropped to between 13,000 to 17,000 at the end of the middle ages.

We explored numerous points of interest in the city center including an organized, guided tour of the Vatican. The options for eating pizza, pasta and gelato are endless when walking the streets from one point to another. Many of us visited the Trevi Fountain, Navona Square, Pantheon, and the Collosium. Along the way we saw The Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine, and numerous churches and palaces…all which are beautiful and stately in their own way.

The Trevi Fountain
My top two favorites were the Trevi Fountain and the Sistine Chapel (no photos allowed). The Trevi Fountain finished in 1762 depicts Neptune as the center statue with others representing Abundance and Health. Common practice is if one makes a wish while throwing a coin into the fountain, the wish will come true and you will certainly return to Rome. 

Shoulders and knees covered and silence are required in the Sistine Chapel. Once inside this chapel, I was brought to tears thinking about the history depicted through the painting of Michelangelo on the ceiling between 1508 and 1512. The studying of the paintings in the chapel ahead of time definitely paid off, although I found out there is even so much more to learn about the history of this world renowned chapel.  
St. Peters Basilica
A few of us wandered around Rome on Monday evening and made it to St. Peters
Square at about 10:30 p.m. We enjoyed the lack of crowds and also the beauty in the lighting.
The entire group toured the Vatican on Tuesday morning. 
The Pantheon, a Roman Temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome,
was built and dedicated between A.D. 118 and 125.  
In A.D. 608 the Pantheon was gifted to the Pope at the time
and has been used as a church ever since.
The Victor Emmanual II Monument (aka The Wedding Cake) is a national symbol
of unity for Italy. Construction started in 1885 and it was completed and inaugurated
in 1911. This is also the sight of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  
The Roman Colosseum.
Time did not permit us to go inside, but the outside alone was spectacular and a
great way to end our trek from west to east across the Rome city center.
Dedicated in 315 A.D. the Arch of Constantine was awarded to Constantine for his army's
victory over of the army of Maxentius  in 312 A.D. The Romans had a period
of peace following this victory as it brought an end to many years of civil war.

And on this Farm We have Some Sheep, and Chickens, and Hogs….

Due to some technical challenges with the blog, this post has been delayed a few days.

On Monday we took our last two agricultural tours. One to the Coop Agricoltura Nuova and the other to the Az. Ag. Maccarese. The two operations differed greatly one from another and gave us a good idea of just how unique and varying the agricultural practices can be in Italy. 

The Coop Agricoltura Nuova is a 540 acre organic diversified cooperative farm that direct sells all its products either at the farm or four locations in Rome. Thirty coop owners work in various areas of specialty on the farm. Products produced or cared for at the farm include vegetables, fruit, hogs, cattle, sheep, horses, chickens, cheese, milk, bees and honey.
A portion of the onsite store where the farm products are sold.
1150 laying hens produce eggs sold for $.58 per egg.
Hogs are butchered and processed right on the farm and
sold in various cuts or as sausage, salami, etc.
Eggplant, along with the zucchini and bell peppers, have been the in-season 
vegetables in Italy as they have appeared in many forms in our meals.
Riikka shows us the two variety of zucchini blossoms. We have found these blossoms
in a few of our dishes throughout the trip and have found them to be quite tasty.
Sheep are milked and the milk is made into yogurt, ricotta and various other 
cheeses. We taste tested the different cheeses and the farm's honey as our lunch appetizer.

Next we toured the Az. Ag. Maccarese, a 3400 acre and 8000 head dairy operation, owned by the Benetton family. This family also owns the international airport in Rome, the Benetton clothing line and the toll ways in the Rome area so the dairy operation is only one of many business ventures owned by the family. 

The dairy was purchased in 1996 for $42.1M and the Benetton family has since invested in $23.4M in improvements with more to come. Basically, the previous buildings were torn down and new facilities built.
Bio-security is of high importance at the farm so we all put of our booties prior to the tour.

Baby calves are taken from their mothers immediately upon birth and live in
these raised huts. They are currently conducting research by feeding the calves
two times per day with a limit of six liters of milk. Kathy Nelson and
Karen Thaler enjoy a closer look at the calves.
All female calves are kept back for breeding and/or milking and all males are fed out to market weight.
The cows are housed in a controlled environment to keep the body temperature at 39
degrees Celsius. Fan and sprinkler systems alternate to keep the body temps consistent. 
In a 60 head milking parlor cows are milked two times per day producing an
average of 30-35 liters per day. Total daily production is 39,000 liters.
Heifers are impregnated at 13 months of age and sold as bred heifers at 16 months for about $2100. 
The SDARL group with our tour guides at the dairy.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Hills Near Perugia…Where the Wine Flows Like Honey and the Cows Grow Big

Today we toured the Lungarotti vineyard and the Fattoria Luchetti Chianina farm in the Perugia area prior to making our two drive to Rome. In Rome we ate our last supper as some of the group starts to head in different directions in the next few days.
We enjoyed one last supper together as an entire group.
I start this blog post where we ended our day with the last supper. The Salud's (toasts) were numerous as we celebrated the Sandi Jaspers and Amber Moe's birthdays with a glass of champagne. In Italy it is customary for the person with the birthday to treat everyone else to dinner or drinks. This can soon become quite an expensive affair for the locals. We chose to follow more of an American birthday celebration with the champagne since birthday cake wasn't available.

Amber Moe and Sandi Jaspers, the birthday ladies.
Over the years Dan Gee has been an instrumental part of, first, the SDARL Organization and then the SDARL Alumni Organization. All the way through ReaJean has been there supporting and connecting with SDARL members, spouses and supporters alike. This evening we celebrated by honoring Dan and ReaJean for their efforts with a set of wine glasses made of Venetian glass.
Thank you, Dan and ReaJean Gee, most importantly for sharing your passion and friendship with us and for helping all of us to become more effective leaders in our homes, communities and in South Dakota. The success of the SDARL in SD continues to grow largely as a result of the vision you and others planted with the start of the program in1999. 
Now back to the agricultural adventures of earlier in the day. We first stopped at the Lungarotti vineyard. Here we followed learning how grapes were pressed, fermented and moved to the maturation process. We then saw how the transfer process uses to make sparkling wines.
The Lungarotti winery, built in 1962, produces over 2,500,000 bottles of wine per year on
about 620 acres. The USA is the second largest importer of Lungarotti wine behind Germany.
The production breaks down to 4000 bottles of wine per an acre.  The average price for a bottle
of wine is between $7 and $30 with reserves selling for more than $570 in some cases.
Based on a $10/bottle average, this vineyard grosses about $44,000/acre. The life of a grape
vine is up to 50 years, with useful fruit production at five years of age.
Once the grapes are pressed large stainless steel vats are used for the
fermentation process, one that takes two to three weeks to complete.
Then the wine is moved to large or small oak barrels for maturation.
The oak barrels can be used up to 50 years when well cared for.
For the Spumante, a transfer process is used to remove the sediment, sweeten and carbonate the
wine.  This process takes 45 days and during that time the bottles are turned and tipped to
different angles to get all the sediment to go to the top of the bottle.
This winery makes over 40,000 bottles of Spumante each year. to remove the sediment, the tops of the bottle is frozen, the sediment removed, and the sweetness and carbonation added. Then the bottle is corked and ready for the consumer.
At the conclusion of our tour we taste four wines (the four center bottles) and two olive oils (on either end.)
Cheers from Bob and Karen Thaler and Dan and Jeanie Sobieck!
Terry and Sandi Jaspers raise a glass.
Kevin and Amber Moe picked up a few bottles for the road.
For lunch and a tour of a Chianina cattle farm we went to Fattoria Luchetti. This farms is 990 acres and raises 600 head of cattle. The views in this area are spectacular. 

We ate lunch on the second level of this beautiful farm house.
A majority of the meals we have eaten as been family style with up to five
or six courses including the espresso at the end of the meal. 
Here was the chefs and serving crew at our lunch. Out of all the wonderful food we have
eaten, this was one of our  favorite meals so far. It tok five chefs to prepare our meal
(the five on the right) and an additional server to take care of our group.
We then toured the farm, focusing on the Chianina herd. This breed of cattle is very large. The standing female pictured above is taller than me with her head lifted and I am 5'6". When fattened this breed gains five to six pounds per day on a ration of 50% hay, 25% proteins and 25% minerals. This herd is raised in confinement. 
This pure bred breed is not seen as much in the USA as it does not do as well in a high grazing environment. 

Here are a few views of the country side from the farm we toured today.

Most machinery is much smaller than we are used to seeing in South Dakota as in Italy.
Panoramic view from the farm.