Yesterday we spent most of the day on the south slope of Mount Etna (Mongibello in Italian and Muncibeddu in Sicilian) at the 100+ year old farmhouse of a family member. It isn’t inhabited full time anymore, but remains a vacation house for a variety of family members that own part of the property.
Over the last 100 years or so, it has been a farm with extensive orchards of pear, apple, sorba (rowan) and chestnuts like the one’s in the photo below. In talking to our cousin Marcello, he revealed that the first house on the property dated to the mid-1700’s, while this home was from around the mid-1800’s. His grandfather had lived there for years until he passed away around 2 years ago. Electricity came in 1984 and the water supply has always been a cistern fed by the tile roof. This collects rainwater and snow melt, as the home is high enough to be snowed in a good part of the winter.
You can see the long, rod-like flower stalks of the chestnuts at the top of the photo. These covered the trees and were visited by a host of flies (mosca), bees, (apl) and wasps (vespa) as I sat beneath them watching. The ground was also covered with spent flower stalks and the husks of last year’s remaining crop. The farm is no longer actively cultivated, due to the costs involved and its somewhat remote location. Even knowing all the work that goes into running a large orchard operation, it made me wonder if it might not be returned to a productive state and turned into an agroturismo location where visitors could come and stay and help in the production. It is in an amazing location with a clear view of Etna’s summit and a short walk to a 1992 lava flow that came within a 100 yards of the property. Agroturismo is very popular here in Sicily. In our drives around the eastern and middle parts of the island we have seen many such locations.
They are limited in the improvements they can make to the property as it is entirely inside, and part of Parco Dell’ Etna, a National Park. The ownership of the parklands is divided between national park, local communities and a large amount of private land such as the orchard that surrounds the house.
As it is, though, it remains an important part of this Sicilian family’s history and will remain so for perhaps another 100 years to come, if not more.