Posted: 2009-09-24


We left the Surmain house in France on August 30 and headed into Italy.  We spent the night in Genova and then continued the next day into Tuscany.  The view from the train on both days was beautiful - along the coast of the French Riviera, through the tiny country of Monaco, along the Italian Riviera, and then through the Italian countryside.  I had a book in my lap, but I spent most of the trip looking out the window.

The train passed through the town of Carrara which is famous for its white Carrara marble - the marble is mined in the mountains in the background and then stored in stock yards next to the train station, ready for shipping

When we arrived at the train station in Cecina in Tuscany, we were greeted by our new WWOOF host, Rita Salvadori.  As you recall, WWOOF is an organization which matches volunteer laborers with organic farms.  In exchange for doing work on the farm, volunteers like me and Chad are provided with room and board.  We spent two weeks working on Rita’s farm which specializes in peppers. 

Yellow peppers

These peppers look like bells

I like the multi-colored peppers on this plant

Rita makes various products out of her peppers and then sells those products to wholesalers and to the general public.  Rita’s pepper products include powder, marmalade, paste, and sauce.  She also has olive oils infused with pepper, garlic, lemon or basil.  There are 5 large fig trees in the yard, so there are a handful of fig products, too.  The Italian word for pepper is “peperoncino,” and Rita markets her products under the label Peperita.  You can look at the Peperita website here.

Dried peppers

After Chad took a huge bite of this pepper, we found out that it is called “Viagra” and is very hot!

These little yellow peppers are called Monkey’s Nipples - don’t ask me why

Rita lives on the farm and runs her business from here.  Her partner, Luca, and his mother, Ilia, also stay here.  Luca has his own plumbing business so he was gone during the day, but he did come home for lunch.  Ilia cooked our meals, cleans, and helps with Peperita products.  Rita has one full-time employee named Val.  Val is originally from Romania, but he has been in Italy for 5 years.  He does not live on the farm, but he joined us for breakfast and lunch.  In addition to me and Chad, there was one other WWOOFer in the house, an Italian woman named Giusi.  Like us, Giusi was new to WWOOF, and she was staying on the farm for a month.  There was also a little dog named Guta who likes to be in the middle of things. 

I forgot to get a picture of the whole gang, but here’s Rita making pasta from chick-pea flour

Guta has a fabulous underbite

This is Guta’s favorite pose, getting scratched!

As you can guess, there is always hustle and bustle around here and always someone to talk to.  Meals are particularly boisterous with everyone talking and laughing at the same time.  In addition to cooking, the large kitchen serves as the dining/living/community room.  The only TV is in this room, so sometimes we would watch an Italian show or movie after dinner.  The WWOOFers sleep in this room, too, with a single bed in the corner and then a double bed up in a loft.  (The family sleeps in other rooms.)  It’s kind of like summer camp with everyone eating and sleeping together!

Rita grows many types of peppers ranging from yellow aji which are very mild to cayenne and jalapeno which are medium spicy to habanero and naga which are super-hot.  There are lots of other things in the garden, too - cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, eggplant, celery, and all sorts of spices such as sage, rosemary and parsley.  Every day we would eat fruit and vegetables fresh from the garden.  How cool is it to walk out into the garden and say, “Hmmm, what should we have for dinner tonight?”

A view of the garden

-Julia Abbott



These photos and your stories are enough to make me want to pack right now and get going! This is gorgeous, thanks for sharing, I don't think I'd have been tasting too many peppers if I thought they were HOT!


No, they don't look like bells. They look like pig snouts. The others -- well, YOU called them Viagra. Perhaps I should try chick-pea flour pasta. I keep meaning to. Really! It's just that the pressure to measure up is so great. If you had married into a Norwegian family, making pasta would not be so intimidating.


WOW ! Gorgeous... how much do YOU LOVE PRYCE?????? I LOVE the multicolored one too!

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