Tuesday, July 19, 2016

O Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?

Today we headed east to towards Verona, the well known town of Romeo and Juliet. While on our way to the city center, we took two more agricultural tours. 

First, we stopped at a 130 acre large wholesale market. Even though this market sells fruit, vegetables, meat and flowers our tour focused on the fruit and vegetable market where 85 operators work from 3:00 a.m. to noon to sell produce. The operators who bring the produce to the market are not the growers. Basically, these operators are the middlemen. Thirty-five percent is sold for export and 65% is sold within the country to supermarkets, restaurants and a few private customers. The small percentage of produce that does not sell is donated to local non-profit organizations. 

Our tour guide shared that the market has 25 employees and the 50%
of the market is used for the fruit and vegetable sales.

Fennel is currently in season as our group has eaten this vegetable at many of our meals since arriving in Italy.
 Italians eat thousands of varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Here alone are three varieties of garlic.
The market director shared the company mission: "Goodwill generates well being."
He said it applies not only the employees, but also the customers at the market.
Next we stopped at the Azienda Agricola farm, an 85 acre diversified operation raising peppers, apples, turkeys and soon strawberries. A bed and breakfast business is also run out of the home generating additional income. 

Peppers, the most labor intensive product the farm produces, must be analyzed
and pruned every 15 days.  These plants will grow to 12 feet tall.
The owner, Vittorio Anselmi, said once harvest starts peppers are picked every three to four days.
The growing season last for eight months with a little help of the heat of the green house,
irrigation and some artificial light. Otherwise the growing season is six months.
These peppers grow to be quite large and noticeably heavier than the ones we often purchase at the supermarkets in the USA. According to Anselmi, the heavier, the higher the quality due to the thickness of the meaty part of the pepper. We were gifted a few of these peppers and were able to taste test them with our lunch at a local restaurant.
Peppers are grown in a mixture of soil and coconut shells in these white bags, which will
last up to three years. An irrigation system provides consistent moisture.
Apples are grown by grafting them at an M-9 level two times per year in summer and winter.
(They are grown in such a way that they look similar to grape vines.) The black netting
helps to keep the birds away and also protects the trees and fruit from hail storms.
Anselmi shared while one person can tend to the apple orchard, it takes six or seven to tend to the apples. An irrigation system is also used to keep ideal soil condition for the apple trees.
Both the peppers and apples have proven to be profitable ventures for the operation. The peppers are generating a 15% profit on $280,000 while the apples generate a 7.5% profit on $465,000. That is about a $77,000 profit, and doesn't even take into account the turkey operation.

For over 20 years turkeys have been grown in this operation.
Today the farm has 35,000 turkeys with the current ones at 20 days old. 
We were pleasantly surprised when Anselmi invited us to see his home and attached bed and breakfast a short drive from the farm. 
This historical farm house dating back to the 1400's was used as the German headquarters at the end of WWII.  The family has worked to restore it and use it for tourism as well as their living quarters.
Being against the law to destroy historical structures, the family has embraced the history of this beautiful villa.
In the living room a portion of the original rock wall is visible.
This stair case has also been restored.
The SDARL Alumni with the Anselmi family in front of their beautiful home and bed and breakfast.
You can notice a small tower on the roof of the tallest part of the home.
This is the tower where the German's flew their white flag at the end of the war.
The structure in the center of this photo was about a quarter mile or a little more away from the
farm house pictured above. This is where the American soldiers were fighting from at the end of the
war, and they eventually could see the white flag signaling the German surrender.
The structure from above a bit closer. 
The Verona city center served as the final stop of our day. We were given a driving and walking tour of the area and then explored on our own for a few hours. One could spend months learning about the rich history as literally 1000 page books have been written about this castle or that monument or this coliseum. We learned simply admiring the architecture, listening to a tour guide and capturing a few photos only scrapes the surface when it comes to understanding the vastness of this town's sites.

The beauty of Verona is quite sure to be just the start of many more memorable sites we witness while in Italy.
Notice the marble street in the main shopping area in Verona.
The area that marks Romeo's home, which is today owned by a
private individual and not accessible to the public.
Entering the courtyard to the famous balcony at Juliet's home, visitors leave letters, notes and
various inscriptions on the wall. It really is a work of art or a whole lot of grafitti depending on how you look at it! The romantic in me thinks it is quite sweet. One can even leave a letter to have
answered by a group who works to write responses to letters dropped in a specific area. 
The famous balcony. "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo."
This statue of Juliet resides in the courtyard and is a popular photo opportunity. You will notice her brightly polished bust. This is because of the customary placement of hands here to bring long and lasting love.
Superstitious or not many in our group, including Pat and Dawn Scheier, joined in the photo op fun.
The Anfiteatro Arena, a Roman Ampitheater, is still used today for many operas and theater productions. 
Although smaller than the Coliseum in Rome, this is still a picturesque site.
Various original art can be viewed on buildings throughout the city center.
White and red stripes are a trademark of cathedrals in Verona.

The Adige River weaves is way around and through the city. In the background here is Castelvecchio.
The dome shaped building in left center is a church. Views such as this
one were many and often while walking along the Adige River.