Friday 7 August 2015


We will never forget our stay on the farm near Verona in Italy. It's been a month since we were there and the children are still asking about Viva the dog and the horses. We talk about creating a place just like this one day. Who knows? But that's what is so wonderful about holidays. They let you dream, sometimes about living another life.

The farm Ca' del Rocolo belongs to Maurizio and Ilaria, who live on the property and work on the land growing olives. They follow organic principles and ask guests to be considerate of their ways. This includes not leaving lights on unnecessarily or running car engines inside the property. It also means that there is no air-conditioning, even on hot Italian summer nights. But that was okay, because the proof of their hard work was all around us.

Quite simply, the property was stunning. As well as olive trees, the land was filled with fruit trees laden with figs and apricots. Herbs grew wild so that when you walked you could smell their fragrance. Wild flowers were growing in abundance, and butterflies were everywhere.

None of us could contain our excitement when we first arrived. The children ran up the hill in their pyjamas and together we watched a beautiful sunset over the city of Verona in the distance. Then, quite unexpectedly, we saw two horses make their way through the fields of wild flowers towards us. The children were beside themselves.

A palomino called Angie was kind and patient with the children, especially when they wanted to give her more grass and wild flowers to eat. Every day after that they wanted to find the horses.

The accommodation had a small kitchenette but a friend who had recommended the farm stay, said that one her fondest memories of her stay was Ilaria's breakfasts. They included homemade bread and muffins, homemade (mulberry and apricot) jams as well as homemade honey (the couple had bees on their property too). Even the butter was homemade, although from a friend. There was homemade yoghurt as well. Every morning we sat under a grand olive tree and ate several courses to prepare ourselves for the day ahead.

Underneath the building where we were staying - which was separate to the owner's farm house - was a dining room. It is where breakfast is sometimes served, as well as dinner. But it is equipped with toys and drawing equipment, and sometimes we would find the children inside drawing quietly. There was a lot of information on the importance of bees in ecology as well as information about WOOF and organic farming. In the past Ilaria has facilitated WOOF stays.

Everywhere we looked were thoughtful displays and great ideas. Flowers hanging to dry from the ceiling made a beautiful display. 

The girls enjoyed playing at this desk often.

And on the wall behind is a wonderful display of animals with a mural drawn behind them. Such a cute and clever idea.

The farm was 8.5 hectares and the children enjoyed exploring as much as they could. It was a wonderful way to educate them on being more environmentally aware. From all the trees hung fly traps with natural ingredients, and they seemed to help keep them mostly away. 

Another popular activity was finding the lavender bushes, smelling them and watching the bees and butterflies that it attracted. One time we saw about five different varieties.

Every day the children asked if they could ride the horses. When Ilaria's daughter was home and her schedule was free, she granted them their wish. The three-year-old smiled from deep within. I don't think I've ever seen her so happy.

The boy's favourite activity was running around the farm with the incredibly placid and friendly dog, Viva. They went on all sorts of adventures together.

And, thankfully, they always came back!

The farm stay experience gave us the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the natural world around us. This feeling remains.

On the last morning at the farm, the children were back in one of their favourite places.

Staying on the farm near Verona embodied everything that I love about holidays - new experiences, new ways of thinking and being. It opened our eyes to what's possible. To live simpler yet richer. And of all the places we visited, it was probably the children's favourite. They loved the freedom of it all.

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