Archives for the month of: June, 2014





Innovation in building material and design practice has transformed architecture. One of my favorites are the liminal spaces designed and initiated by Philip Beesley ( in which the human presence performs a participatory role in creating the space, building with a new kind of material and method. Farm houses on the other hand remain very traditional, but much of the old building material is very strong and can be recycled/re-used, which is in fact very NOW



The roof is replaced, and now I organize and order all the -centuries’ old- terra cotta roof tiles. They are beautiful, but will not be replaced on the roof, probably be sold. Then there is all the salvaged wood. An ancient building material that can be used in many different ways: light and heavy, traditional and avant-garde. I love the tree and the wood.



For some inspiration on the use of wood in architecture:


My running objective today is to go to Macerata Feltria to visit the Pitinum Thermae, getting in ‘touch’ with the local water sources. The name of both the town and the Terme refer to its Roman past. The Terme in Macerate Feltria takes its water from the natural sulfur spring.

In general, I love public baths, especially when build around a natural water source or completely in natural setting. My favorites so far include Jemez springs, New Mexico, kulttuurisauna in Helsinki, where you plunge in the Baltic Sea to cool off, and the tidal hot springs of Yakushima that are incredible!

I pack my things and am ready to go. Silvia told me it is about 8km, but It includes running up the next high hill and I hope I can run back after bathing. I underestimate myself. It takes me less than 45 minutes to get there and I spent about the same time in the pools. One is a hot sulfur Jacuzzi, and the other a cooler herbal ‘bubble’ bath for the legs. It is interesting that in mainland Europe many of these baths are frequented by older or injured people, as part of the health system. I enjoy the hot sulfur, and the old ladies, and finish my time with some herbal water to invigorate the legs.


It is still early, I have a coffee and decide to run to the next body of water, the artificial lake of Mercatale (Lago di Mercatale), where I hope to have my lunch break, an maybe another dip. I cross the dam and get on the unpaved road along the lake, but there is no place to reach the lake. The boat dock/recreation area is still under construction. Lunch will have to be up in Sassocovare. I climb up, have another coffee, my banana, some frutta secca and enjoy the view from a park bench under a tree, overlooking the lake.


Time to return, I follow the valley road to Bronzo and run back to ‘my hill.” It is hot and finish my water.



The connection between interior (architecture) and exterior (landscape) is something that is central in my own work, understanding differences in spatial experience and design in different cultures, and builds on the work of Tadahiko Higuchi, a researcher/spatial scientist –also- from Japan, He published a book on visual and spatial experience of the landscape in 1983, but more than that, his research also provides insight in the different role that architecture plays in Japan in this dynamic relationship, where the walls are not meant to exclude the outside.


I am on a hill. The hill is steep. At first I thought it was like any hill, but running around I noticed that this hill is a bit lower than, and protected by the surrounding hills, creating an interesting microclimate. The farmhouse is typical in the region, with thick stone walls and relatively small windows. From inside it is difficult to maintain the (visual) connection with the surrounding landscape. Luckily, I am outside large part of the day, and I am reminded of the stories of Shono and lessons of Higuchi.





Image from Zafferano Montefeltro. For more of Silvia’s saffron recipes:


see also:



When stacking wood, the challenge is to optimize space, often resulting in beautiful geometric patterns. The particular challenge for me is that the cut wood is a mix of salvaged wood, large and small tree trunks and branches, different in many ways. With ‘statistical precision’ I sort by size and shape, not by type of wood.


THEN there is another challenge: Zanzara. The little mosquitos or gnats are everywhere and they like me, a lot. I am covered with bites. They don’t deserve their fantastic sounding name, but for me it is time to change the dress style and go farming Asian mode, no more exposed skin.

I tie my Indian scarf/towel over my face under my hat so that only my eyes are visible. The weak point is the transition between long sleeve and glove; when I reach to stack, part of my wrist is exposed. I wish I had the Japanese gloves or arm covers with me, fantastic in the field and in fashion.






Now a national monument, the Fortress, with its curvilinear walls, and almost round shape represents an ‘architecture of transition’, was created for a new form of warfare using bombards. The fort became also known through rescue operation during WWII, saving about 10.000 artworks from the Marche region, Rome, Venice, and Milan, from the hands of the enemy.

While walking around we noticed the –material– remnants of the procession related to the celebration of San Giovanni that had taken place earlier that day, catholic symbols on the street surface, created with thousands of flower petals, a tradition known as infiorate.


I was reminded of the beautiful Kolam designs in Southern India and was curious of any of these ephemeral paintings were enlisted on the UNESCO intangible heritage list. It appears that the Kolam tradition was proposed, but not selected in 2011.

This year, a UNESCO “proposal for the declaration of ephemeral art carpets as “Intangible Cultural Heritage” is presented at the V Congresso Internazionale delle Arti Effimere, on June 26-29, in Rome. Here, the events aim to revive the ancient tradition of floral decoration on the feast day of the patron saints of Rome.




In this fantastic article, “Flavor network and the principles of food pairing”, written by Ahn, different ingredient pairings in regional cuisines and cultural traditions are analyzed with the objective to clarify if there are any underlying general principles at work.

Sources like the “The Flavor Bible” are based on the food-pairing hypothesis, rooted in the idea of pairing food based on shared compounds as is common in Western traditions. Based on their data-driven approach, the authors found that in East Asian cuisines compound sharing ingredients is avoided, and that Southern European cuisine is closer to Latin American cuisines in signature ingredients than it is to Western European cuisine. If you don’t feel up to going through all the statistics in the article, please just take a look at it for the great visualizations of the differences in FOOD ART. It is enticing and invites you to experience and expand your world through your eyes and taste buds. Oh, and also through your NOSE. Exercise your senses!



So what about saffron, does the experience warrant the effort and price of producing it? First of all there is the visual sensation, the intense color it gives to food and non-food. I ask Silvia to comment on the description of saffron in “The Flavor Bible.”

“Taste: sour-sweet-bitter”

According to Silvia, the aroma is sweet, experienced through your nose. The taste is bitter and after swallowing the taste is diffused and the bitter, but not aggressive taste, persists in the mouth. Saffron is not sour, except fermented saffron from Iran or Greece has this quality (after the saffron wilts, it obtains a hay-like smell). In Italy, the saffron is not fermented, however in Sardinia the saffron is wetted with olive oil, which gives it an acidic note. This process of wetting doubles the weight and should therefor be less expensive than pure saffron.



“Function: Cooling”

Silvia does not understand what is meant by this, the function for her is digestive. Cooling is not a characteristic she associates with saffron.

“Tips: Add later in the cooking process, saffron is activated by the heat of cooking”

On this point Silvia disagrees. The aroma (sweet sensation) is lost above 50C°, it also loses its medicinal properties and is only bitter.

The way to use saffron is to let the saffron pistils soak in COLD water overnight. If you use powder, this time can be considerably less, about 10 minutes. Depending on your recipe you can adjust the amount of water you use. The water will extract the taste and aroma and is added to the dish at the end, when is cooled enough (below 50C°). The pistils can be added for visual sensation.



Today I run in the direction of the observatory and decide to circle Monte San Lorenzo over the top. A moderate run because I have to work in the field later in the day. Sun, no clouds, but the temperature is not too high and part of the road is shaded.

Beyond the observatory the dirt road turns into a single-track trail, I can’t run too fast because I get entangled in the blackberry bush. I hear small animals and keep my eyes on the track. This year there are many snakes around, we find a lot of eggs in the crocus field, but I think the rustling sounds are mainly made by the small, beautifully green, lizards.

I get back on a bigger road; turn of here and there on some dead end roads in the Adriatic direction to enjoy the view. I think to myself that it is actually hard to get lost because there are so many viewpoints to do some mental triangulation. Famous last words.Slide15




I pass Ca’Secco, run up hill to where the road connects at a sharp angle to the paved road. I keep running but now downhill. I know this is not right; I had planned to circle Monte San Lorenzo on the top. Running down hill is so nice so I indulge. When I almost reach a big river, Torrente Conca, I stop. I can’t remember if there is another way back to my ‘nest’ if I continue along the river. I turn around and run back up the hill, a gently slope, nice running, and a lot of cyclists on this road. Now I’m headed in the right direction, running down from San Lorenzo. A short, but very enjoyable run.




my track today…




The crocus bank project is a consortium that includes partners that have good experience in different areas of saffron research, as is stated on the website and includes partners from EU countries, but also requires participation from non-EU countries.

The crocus bank project received financial support from the EU Commission, Directorate General for Agricultural and Rural Development in 2004. During its early stages, my host got involved and tried to be accredited as an expert in Italy. Since she has law degree, but not an agricultural related degree, her request was declined. The decision to not include farmers as experts seems strange, but not uncommon.

Together with my partners in several community projects I have written about this issue.

Van der Elst, Judith, Heather Richards-Rissetto, Jorge Garcia

2010                Creating Digital Heritage Content; bridging communities and mediating perspectives, In: Digital Culture and E-Tourism: Technologies, Applications and Management Approaches, ed.M Lytras, E. Damiani, L. Diaz, P Ordonez de Pablos, Information Science Reference, Hershey, New York, p-139-156

The latest update on the crocus bank project website is dated July 2012…




The dinner was good, the conversation lively; a way to exchange food and solidify relationships. It is exactly these traditions and farming methods that are inscribed in the UNESCO intangible heritage list and are intended to be preserved according to EU heritage regulations (see post June 13). Also, the small-scale farmers are considered a key component in meeting the challenge of global food supply in the future. These landscapes and traditions however may disappear fast.


Last week (June 13) the New York Times ran an article entitled “From Untended Farmland, Reserve Tries to Recreate Wilderness From Long Ago”. It describes one project, as part of a a larger trend in Europe to ‘rewild’, if that is a verb. In many of these projects species are introduced that were part of these regions at some time in the past. One of the criticisms is that the science is not solid or absent in these projects. Another criticism is that these projects that purport to be environmentally driven, are in fact a covert component in the carbon trade exchange market (‘landgrab’). When atmosphere and water become economic commodities and are no longer part of the commons we should pay attention.

In Spain, the projected revenue from increased tourism as a result of the Reserve did not happen.

“Land concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe”, published by Transnational institute (TNI) for European Coordination Via Campesina and Hands of the Land network, April 2013.

“Smallholders, food security, and the environment” report IFAD, UNEP, 2013







In general, herbs and spices are least cultivated within the food system, and therefore their natural qualities are maintained. For this reason I believe herbs and spices are an untapped resource in healthy diets, as the natural pharmacy for human and environmental health and sustaining biodiversity.

That is why I am skeptical about the industry efforts for bioengineering herbs and spices. Under the title “What’s that smell? Exotic scents made from Reengineered Yeast”, the New York Times (October 20, 2013) published an article on this and specifically discussed the efforts of ‘Evolva’to produce saffron-like yeast. There maybe nothing wrong with yeast, yeast is everywhere, and in fact, many of our foods are based on yeast fermentation (yeasts – classified in the kingdom of Fungi). BUT, in the (near) future I would like to have my diet based on more than genetically modified wheat, rice, corn and chemically flavored yeast. I also prefer to retain some independence from the chemical industry when I ‘procure’ , prepare, and enjoy my food.

Initially, these bioengineering efforts seem harmless, and are argued to be part of sustainable program of future food production. Depending on how you define sustainable, it is difficult to oversee future consequences of increasing bio-engineered food and fuel to sustain a world population in good health, and requires more research: TO BE CONTINUED…





Outside my window there is a walnut tree, I love the smell when you touch the walnut husk to collect the fruit. You use the whole fruit, including the husk to make the drink.

The process of making the Nocino includes maceration, which is the softening or breaking into pieces of raw, dried, or preserved fruit or vegetables using a liquid to absorb the flavor. Maceration is the main method of producing a flavored alcoholic beverage.


About 33-35 nuts (uneven number is a tradition); 800gr of sugar/water (equal parts); 1liter alcohol/vodka 95% – optional: spices: 1/2 vanilla bean, 2 cinnamon sticks; nutmeg; allspice: strips of lemon rind.

We are using the Sicilian way, macerating in alcohol first and adding the sugar/syrup later. Following the Modena tradition you add sugar at the beginning. Take your pick.








update post June 16: to use horstail in saffron production, you create a compost tea, similar to nettle tea.



The horsetail (genus Equisitum), classified within the large FERN family has been around since the early days in the Paleozoic era. Although it offers a variety of benefits to humans, it is also considered a weed, even listed an obnoxious weed in several countries, it continuous to grows everywhere in the world.

I love this plant. And now I have a reason to show it in relation to saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. The Beauty and the Beast.


The crocus (Crocus sativus) is very sensitive. Like ferns, the crocus does not reproduce through flowers, even though it is a flowering plant. Reproduction needs human assistance, each corm, the bulb-like underground part of the plant, divides into cormlets that can grow into new plants, but have to be dug up. Each corm can grow up to four flowers, the better care given, the more flowers the longer the stigmas (saffron).

The corms however are susceptible to fungi that will destroy/’eat’ the corm, and fungi thrive in wetter conditions. I don’t know exactly how it works biologically, but my host mentioned she uses horsetail, planted in the crocus beds to control the fungi, in wetter periods. A perfect couple.

Some of my favorite artists who have interpreted the story of the Beauty and the Beast written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (1711-1780):

Jean Cocteau – film 1946

Philip Glass: opera triptych 1991-1996 – homage to Cocteau






In my current location, agricultural machines yes, church bells no. I know that a nearby place, CA’ Antonio, that I frequent on my daily run has a bell, but it is not in use. I even miss the rooster. The neighbors have chickens but lay their eggs without a ‘man’. Significantly rural…I am told to stay in after dark to avoid encounters with the animals, wolves, boars, and badgers, but I can listen to them…


From ‘my high nest’ in the Montefeltro area, with rounded hills, and hilltops that are sparsely dotted with farmhouses and hamlets, I take of for a moderate length run. No road is flat, many slope steeply and the coolness of the early morning quickly changes to hot and humid conditions on most days. Fortunately, today is overcast with a forecast of thunderstorm, still humid, but pleasant to run, up or down.

Montefeltro I now realize is named after Federico da Montefeltro , who was condottieri     of this region and Duke of Urbino and known for his contributions to art and literature driven by his humanist education. He was also ‘immortalized’ by Pierro della Francesca, a fantastic Italian Renaissance double portrait (diptych) of the duke and duchess of Urbino (1465-1472), currently in the Uffizi museum in Florence.


It is Sunday and I pass the first bell in CA’Antonio. I pass fields of wheat and clover, the latter is used as a rotation crop. This is small-scale (mainly non-organic) farming. Tractors yes, but this landscape is not suitable for industrial size operations using turbines. Not really competitive. I am told that a nearby farm changed its production from dairy to meat, because of the changing rules and regulations, made milk, yoghurt and cheese a losing business. While eating less meat would be better for the environment and more sustainable in the long run.


I continue and I see a bell tower on a hill, take a detour and try to find a road but the only way up is through the wild flowers. It is a nice chapel, but apparently no longer in use. I walk around and spot the bell with a rope attached, I am tempted but restrain myself. I this area deserting? (Later I am told that in the first half of the twentieth century this region used to be a prosperous sulphur mining area, one of the biggest in Europe.)



Then I see another sign, this one of modernization, a sign to direct you to an online bike shop. If ever you wondered where online businesses are located, not in the cloud necessarily, you can check out possibilities in the Marche region

After a few wrong turns where the road ends at a deserted house, I think I see another tower that may have a bell. I decide to run down to check it out. No bell, but a monument restored with EU funds, and no way to get in or get close to the entrance.

I run back up and continue the path, reach the valley road that leads to the main road to Bronzo. I hear rustling sounds of a considerable size animal along the way and hope it is a deer and not a boar. I reach Bronzo and there is a church with a car parked in front, I am hopeful.

I take a break, walk around the church and wait a bit. LUCK, the churchbell rings! I wait a bit longer, but the sound of the bell does not stir any activity in the community.

Then an older guy in t-shirt, shorts and slippers comes out of the church, locks the door behind him and drives of in his fiat panda. After that I hear some more bells ringing in nearby locations.


I turn around and run back along the valley road, I still hear distant sounds of bells while running. Maybe the bells only ring on Sunday…I return to the farm and am welcomed by the familiar sound of Small Agricultural Machine. No rain yet. Get as much work done before it starts…


I am currently on an organic saffron farm in the Marche region. Saffron is known as the world’s most costly spice, made from the dried stigmas of the crocus flower (Crocus sativus) Although often thought of as native to Southeast Asia, the cultivation of saffron most likely originated in Crete during the Minoan period. The ideogram for saffron is recognized in Linear B tablets (1450 BCE), documenting large amounts of saffron either cultivated or gathered from the wild. Frescos in Knossos also depict saffron gatherers.


COUNTING THREADS. SAFFRON IN AEGEAN BRONZE AGE WRITING AND SOCIETY, Jo Day, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 30(4), 369-391, 2011

The spice is a valuable agricultural product, in the past and today, because of its variety of uses. It adds flavor to a variety of dishes, is used medicinally, and is a powerful coloring agent for skin, hair, and cloth. The production methods have not changed significantly since those early times and this explains the high price of saffron.


Crocus sativus does not grow in the wild, but derived from the Mediterranean plant Crocus cartwrightianus. The reason why it needs to be cultivated is because the crocus does not produce useful seeds. The corms, the underground bulb-like part of the plant must be dug up, broken apart, and planted again. The flowering period is in the fall. To harvest the stigmas and obtain high quality saffron, the flowers need to be picked before dawn when the flowers are still closed.


Right now is the time to dig up the corms…



Why do we focus on calories instead of nutritional value?

Why do we not make more use of savory and nutritional abundance?

Mora 2011, “How Many Species Are There on Earth and in the Ocean?” in PLoS Biology, August 2011, Vol. 9, Issue 8



In general, plants as well as people need many nutrients to grow into healthy beings and together we depend on soil. The healthy plant takes up the nutrients from atmosphere, but primarily from the soil. Creating AWARENESS of the poor soil conditions worldwide and the implications of further degradation IS ESSENTIAL.

Industrial /commercial farming strategies include the breeding of varieties that can grow in poorer and poorer soils, but these seeds grow up to be nutrient poor plants. In eating such plants people take in energy (calories) but deprive themselves of healthy components that can be gained from plants grown up in healthy, nutrient rich soil.

If this sounds too academic, it is because I am one, but I also spent considerable research time as part of participatory/community projects. Research papers and policy documents are often interesting and well intended, however I find that sometimes they are of limited practical use and poorly connected to the day-to-day farm life. In adapting a nomadic research style I hope to better connect the dots, identify problems and challenges that will lead to practical solutions for farmer and consumer. It is clear that rural regions are rich in beneficial sensory experiences in need of maintenance support. Researchers and policy designers do agree. Some quotes from a recent report on European gastronomic heritage building on the UNESCO intangible heritage listing of the MEDITERRANEAN DIET

“Educational aspects

A. whereas the present and future health and wellbeing of the population is determined by diet and the environment and hence by farming, fishing and livestock breeding methods;…


Ai. whereas the European heritage is made up of a set of tangible and intangible elements and, in the case of gastronomy and food, is also formed by the locality and landscape from which the products for consumption originate;

Aj. whereas the longevity, diversity and cultural richness of European gastronomy are founded on the availability of high-quality local produce;…


Cultural aspects

21. Emphasises the need to create awareness of the diversity and quality of the regions, landscapes and products that are the basis of Europe’s gastronomy, which forms part of our cultural heritage and also constitutes a unique and internationally recognised lifestyle; stresses that this sometimes requires respect for local habits;…


39. Calls on the Member States to take measures to preserve the European gastronomy-related heritage, such as protection of the architectural heritage of traditional food markets, wineries or other facilities, and of artefacts and machinery related to food and gastronomy;…”


On the UNESCO list of intangible heritage (since 2003) are several regional and national diets (<10), among which the Mediterranean Diet. This is meant in large to preserve the variety of social and cultural aspects of the food production and consumption of countries, in this case the Mediterranean region. The diet itself is hard to define, but a common denominator seems to be OLIVE OIL, although this does not hold true for all countries.

I have eaten some wonderful local food products and sharing of these products is indeed important. To sell these products on the markets is often problematic because of increasing complexity in rules and regulation on local, regional, national, and international governmental levels. I listen to the stories of the farmers…

Meanwhile, supermarkets everywhere are dominated by products from large food producers, which control the market and influence policy in their interest, most of the time successfully. (to find out more, please revisit Philip Howard’s website ).

It seems that in order to support and promote these wonderful products and cultural practices, a more lenient set of rules would benefit small producers, as a transition period to test the market and raise some capital before investing in required infrastructure for increased production.






Eat more Legumes – Chickpea pancake




I like beans, as dinner and design *.

Beans are classified as legumes. A legume is a plant in the Fabaceae family or the fruit or seed of such a plant. Legumes are grown as food for humans and other animals and also for their NITROGEN-FIXING qualities, important for REPLENISHING THE SOIL. The symbiotic relationship between maize and beans forms for instance the foundation of many indigenous farming traditions.


Besides beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, tamarind are part of the legume family, but also clover, carob, alfalfa and peanuts are included. ALL SUPER GOOD TO EAT.  In many traditional diets, a combination of legumes and grains; such as rice & lentils, is a staple dish.


(* Cloud Gates – nick named The Bean because of its shape    )


In an earlier post I explained that soil is a non-renewable source on the human scale, meaning that if soil is completely degraded (no organic matter or nutrients, left) it will take about 100-400 years to renew. Healthy soil is a prerequisite for healthy produce, not just in organic farming terms, but in general.


The Marche region is subject of a case study of a Sustainable Agriculture and Soil Conservation project, commissioned by the Agricultural and Rural Development Committee of the European Parliament. Nine other case studies were conducted in other member states, chosen because they are representative of the problems of soil degradation.

The Marche region was selected for the EU study also because of its geography and the widespread soil degradation. Based on biophysical and socioeconomic factors the researchers of this study identified 14 different management systems and the objective of the study is to make suggestions for sustainable practice and soil conservation.

Alarmingly, even among farmers in the region the awareness of the severity of soil degradation is low to medium. This is a BIG PROBLEM

KEEP OUR SOILS ALIVE – for the big picture take a look…

Small scale farming is an important strategy for doing so and to address the global food challenge.

A recent article in the New York Times (Putting a Price Tag on Nature’s Defenses, June 5, 2014) discussed efforts of attaching a monetary value to nature’s defenses to clarify the cost of environmental degradation.  It is time to do something similar for soil degradation in calculating the cost of food production. Organic farming would become much more profitable compared to conventional and industrial farming.Slide30

My new nest is a giant airbed, in an old farmhouse up the hill, with a pleasant earthy smell.






But at the end of the day, we deserve something good, and THEN…



Using the scythe is however still a preferred method on steep sloping Alpine meadows.

For those of you who don’t know what a scythe is, you may know it from iconography as Father Time (Panofsky).


For rural humor, watch this youtube announcement of the Unesco supported Hay Making festival.

It is now hay cutting time in the valley and this weekend it is happening. Yesterday, the grass was cut and turned once to optimize the drying process. Today the grass, which is now hay, is turned once again and tomorrow we will shape it into rows for the making of bales.


Why now, you wonder, as did I. There is actually some TK (Traditional Knowledge) behind this. The grass is now (early June) at an optimum for certain nutrients and will be good for all the animals to eat the following winter. This hay is called FIENO. There will be a second cutting in August, called LIGOR. This hay is protein rich and is only good for animals that are milked. In other parts of the region at lower altitudes they sometimes have a third cutting, TERZOL.


This week for dinner the healthy version of this dish, instead of deep fried, the eggplant slices are grilled.

By now you know about the cultural variation in Südtirol and this also extends to food. Vea , who is originally from Tuscany, introduced me to the profound relationship to olive oil. YOU USE LOTS. Whereas her partner grew up near Lake Caldonazzo, more butter than oil.

Visit one of Vea’s favorite blogs:






ENCORE… A sad day in the vegetable garden

I love strong women. I like the goats because they have a mind of their own and are proficient in crossing boundaries and jumping any fence. But this morning Kumba escaped from the barn and ate many of the young peas, the first produce Vea plans to sell in the market.

In Italy there is a proverb to say that two things don’t go together, you do not mix CAPRI & CAVOLO, in this case we would like to add, do not mix CAPRI & PISELLI.

She’d better produce some nutritious milk…



For now I don’t use any electronic assistance during my runs, instead I rely on my senses, accidental human encounters, a simple tourist map with hiking trails and road signage. In this way I hope to get a better insight in how we can use future technologies to enhance these kind of experiences. Meanwhile, the road up gets steeper and steeper and every now and then I pause to catch my breath and enjoy the sight and sound of the running and falling water from the mountainside and along the riverbed.


Watching out for signs along the road I never see the sign that points the trail back in the direction of Sant Orsola, but reading the landscape, noticing the changing vegetation, I’m beginning to suspect that I am already beyond that point. I run further uphill, I don’t want to go back down to check.

Then I run into some guys who are checking the water pumps, they are not from the area and cannot tell me where I am exactly, but they assure me that if I run a little further there is a road toward the main road to Sant Orsola. A little further I ask a farmer, who knows. He answers me in German and I realize I am in different territory, in Palú del Fersina. It is beautiful; fresh and cool mountain air. I can take some other hiking trails back, just a little bit more climbing.



I run up to Sontbisen and look forward to run down through the forest, but I am in for a surprise. The path apparently is not used a lot, it is full of weeds and last night’s rain made it more into a stream than a path, I slide and wade down before the path improves. Then beautiful Anish Kapoor-like sculptures of green moss line the path.

On reaching another diversion I stay on the downhill path, even though there is no sign to give me any idea this is the right direction. Luckily I run into a forest guide with his shepherd dog. He tells me to continue and go left to take the paved road when I cross the stream. At the cross-road there is actually another forest trail that will take me to Sant Orsola. Yes! Running downhill on soft forest soil!


In Sant Orsola I enjoy some yogurt con frutti di bosco and a coffee before I run my last stretch, mostly downhill, the last part straight up to the farm. My shoes never became dry.



MORRA (rural cultural heritage)


What I like about rural living is not only the natural sensory experiences but also the cultural aspects. The correlation between linguistic/cultural- and biodiversity has been recognized for a while, but most people seek cultural experiences in cities. Although metropolitan areas are culturally happening places, the urban is increasingly globalized and homogenized, where people flock to familiar feeling venues and star architects create buildings that often express more about their individual style than the uniqueness of the urban environment.

(see for instance: The Intersections of Biological Diversity and Cultural Diversity: Toward Integration, Pretty, 2009, open access article on

Now in case of the new science museum in Trento the architect can be considered a local (Genoa). Renzo Piano’s building is a wonderful space for the educational science exhibition focused in large on the Alpine region.

BUT, as you may remember during the same weekend I visited Trenro I also went to the Mocheni goat festival. This was not only a showcasing for the typical goats of the region, but also a social event. Two different languages spoken at least and local dialect, it is already a MULTICULTURAL event. Most interesting was the game of Morra, a kind of cognitive game that becomes more vocal with the increasing intake of alcoholic beverage. The game has four players, two on each side of the table. I don’t know the specific rules but it goes something like this: first the players diagonally play and then the players facing each other. The players slam their forearm on the table holding a specific number of fingers out. At the same time the two players shout the estimated total of the two. Whoever shouts the right total number scores a point, while they keep track of the score mentally.







Last night it rained and this morning the sun, filtered through the trees, created that special atmosphere, perfect for running. And there she was on the path in front of me, the mother deer. Or so I assumed. I was told by the friends of the family, the alpine guide and forest specialist, that the mother deer teaches the little one to stay put until she returns.


With this kind of weather the flowers in the pasture are abundant, time to get serious about the cubic meter and the variation of plants available in the goat diet. Not only do they eat in the meadow, but today they also went for a browsery walk in the forest, where one of their favorite vegetables is FERN.


It reminded me of an image from the Tacuimum di Vienna, (if I am not mistaken), which I saw last Saturday in Trento, at a small exhibition of illuminated manuscripts of plants and herbs.

(“Antichi ERBARI della Biblioteca di Trento”, Cappella Vantini di Palazzo Thun, Trento,  April 17-June 29, 2014)




The goats eat out everyday. Sometimes in the forest but most of the time they browse the meadow. The meadow has a movable fence and today it was time to get them to fresh pasture. The slope of this mountain is very steep and this procedure of fence-moving requires nothing less than BECOMING GOAT-LIKE.


In Greek and Roman mythology the goat-like creature, who is half man half goat is known as Satyr. Apparently, a female version was a later invention of poets; these Satyresses who roamed the woods and mountains, where not unknown to artists in the Renaissance.


It is a strange to realize that there that there are connections between the things you chose to do and enjoy, the way you view the world and how people in the past thought in similar ways.

Satire of course, is also known as a literary form. Roman satire is a poetic essay that was a medium for biting, subversive social and political criticism, as a force in opposition to urbanity, decorum, and civilization itself.


(see these great infographics

Yesterday I went to the “Festival Economia Trento”, a mulit-day event, with national and international speakers. Past speakers are showcased on banners throughout the city. I attended a lecture by Robert McChesney who spoke about the conflict between capitalism and democracy and the increasing inequality this generates, and the trend of stagnation, which he explained, is deeply rooted in corporate capitalism.


Today another festival, but of another kind, the Mocheni Goat festival,showcasing the other qualities of this mountain region. The festival took place on the other side (east slope) of the valley, where the Mocheni culture/language dominates. And yes, Penelope won a bell!


Ok, also some sheep



The woman who ‘saved’ the Mocheni goat


The winning bells