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A taste of country life on a rural farmstead

Spending time relaxing on a farmstead or rural estate is quite an original formula for a holiday, allowing you to experience and take a close look at some of the farming activities carried on in these settings.

Agricultural - or ‘rural’ - farmsteads as we tend to call them in Istria are referred to as stanzie. In land-registry maps compiled during the period of the Austro-Hungarian domination the word stanzia was already adopted in this sense and today the term is still used to designate properties of this kind.

One might wonder how a country farmstead may be defined in terms of its purpose. Well, Wikipedia can help us out on that score:

... apart from the bare earth, in order to achieve its aims a farmstead will also have the facilities and structures necessary for the stable accommodation of a family and the exercise of its agricultural activities. It follows that on a farmstead there will always be a farmhouse, sheds and outhouses for tools and animals and any workrooms that may be required for the operations typically carried out on a farm (usually comprising  a winery or a dairy). It will also have at its disposal such investments and facilities as may be necessary to increase the productivity of the land: a vineyard or fruit-tree plantations, a ground-water well or other systems installed for the supply  of water, etc.

A fundamental requirement of a farm is its capacity throughout the entire year to provide work for the available workforce within the family and guarantee the subsistence of all family members. Consequently, a farmstead will present certain necessary characteristics. It will ideally operate with a mixed production formula and be capable of optimizing the distribution of work among family members, ensuring full employment for the same with a minimum level of recourse to external workforces (farm labourers). Moreover, the farm should have at its disposal sufficient capacity and assets in relation to its productivity goals, in terms of its range of operations and available land and also its specialist cultivation systems.

It follows that the physiognomy of a farm will vary from one region to the next in terms of size, socio-cultural traditions and production methods.

Considering the area of Istria, from the historical point of view there have always been hundreds of farmsteads in this region, both in the coastal districts and inland. Careful research reveals that in the territory of Bale alone there were once eighty-three farms, as confirmed by surviving land-registry records and the preserved ruins of old farm buildings.

With a view to developing possible niche-tourism destinations, the reconstruction of these buildings and the restoration of the functions of these fascinating structures is certainly advisable. Some of the old farmsteads have already had their former splendour revived. The imagination may play an important role. What is actually offered to guests who come to stay at these sites?

Early in the morning, visitors start their day listening to the sounds of cows that need to be 'milked' and other animals waiting for someone to take care of them and provide them with food, and ... try to imagine drinking some freshly-made coffee with an added spoonful of raw milk straight from the cow or perhaps having a bowl of milk and coffee containing a few slices of bread made from locally-produced flour.

A ‘caffelatte’ serves as an energy supplement, considering all of the work you may be involved in during your long day at the 'stanzia'.

As established from the outset, your holiday will be an 'interactive' experience and certainly not in the 'virtual' sense.

The day may start off with a cow-milking session out in the animal shed. This may be followed by a few hours spent with the farmer in nearby groves, picking fruit, and in the kitchen-garden or fields, gathering ripe vegetables that will be used as ingredients in the lunch you prepare and consume in a convivial way with any other guests present in the household, or together with your hosts. If there are animals on the premises that have to be brought out of the sheds and turned out to pasture we can also get involved in these tasks.

It's a fascinating experience to note the animals' reactions to our presence and it's as if they know you are there to take care of them. You will daily consume fruit and vegetables but of course these have to be replaced, and at a certain point fresh lettuce or watermelon seeds will have to be sown and new tomato seedlings may have to be transplanted ... and, if you are there in the right season, you may be invited to help the farmers with the olive harvesting process. In any case, you will see that time passes quickly.

Evening soon draws on and we shouldn't spend too much time idling around after dinner because the cock will be crowing its head off at dawn, as is its wont as another day begins.

Have a good time ... and have a pleasant adventure!


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