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Nestled in the heart of Sicily, amidst the hills surrounding the Platani Valley, lies Feudo Muxarello. On this picturesque 40 hectare farm, three generations of the Ciulla family have been farming organically since the 1950’s.
When asked about his family’s history and farm at Feudo Muxarello, Calogero proudly recounts: ‘When my Grandfather worked on this farm he tended to his sheep and goats every day and he did not use any machinery to grow barley and wheat. Instead mules and donkeys pulled the plough and carts to work the land.’
Like other Sicilian families, all of Calogero’s grandfather’s children helped on the farm. Whether it was harvesting wheat with a sickle or collecting olives by hand, such was the way of life that Calogero’s father (Leonardo – pictured above) learnt from a very young age.
‘A posto?’ is the greeting called out by Calogero’s father Leonardo whenever he sees you. His eyes twinkle and his suntanned face wrinkles into a laugh when he proudly explains that he first started looking after their goats and sheep at the age of nine. He is clearly still passionate about his family; his animals and the annual cycle of life that happens at the farm and he shows little interest for modern day life. The change from traditional farming to modern day methods has happened in his lifetime and this is all the more evident when he explains that his son Calogero could drive one of their first tractors within a hairs width of anything from a very young age.
Despite the change to mechanisation, the family still continues to incorporate a diverse organic rotation whilst growing a variety of crops such as cereals, legumes, almonds, olives, grapes, saffron and a vast array of vegetables. A proportion of this delicious traditional food ends up on the dining room table and is lovingly prepared by Sandra before being shared with their family and guests from around the world.
The passion for farming, food and nature has undoubtedly influenced Calogero. Today guests from all over the world frequent his newly restored farm buildings and share dinner with him, his beautiful wife Sandra and his adorable children on a long farm table. Often they ask Calogero and his family to visit them in their part of the world and Calogero laughs off the question and finds ways of avoiding having to leave his farm.
It is easy to understand why. Feudo Muxarello, with its vast views, is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the Sicilian countryside. But what really makes this place unique is the Ciulla family, their culture and their beloved farm. After spending time with three generations of the Ciulla family I have found a place where the family connection comes first; where great food and wine - that has travelled a few feet rather than miles - comes a close second; and how both of these things are intertwined by a rich Sicilian culture and the fertile Sicilian soil. Whilst the world hurriedly moves on, the Ciulla family holds onto their rich traditions and deep connection to the land. Feudo Muxarello is definitely a unique place to visit.
By Colin Javens: his experience at Feudo Muxarello in 2018