“Silence and the sole rhythm of earth and sun: this is why we decided to raise our children here”
Lio Piccolo – It seems impossible that anybody could have roads like these to take them home. Roads that wind through the enchanted landscape of the Venetian lagoon and its salt marshes. All year round, this landscape changes its vegetation, colors and winged “inhabitants“: herons, egrets and, at least once a year, pink flamingos. You can reach Michele Borgo‘s home only if you set yourself out to, because the road that leads to his fields is off any tourist map. And maybe this is good thing.
The “treasure hunt” to find him and interrupt him in his purple-colored work begins and ends in Lio Piccolo, in the Cavallino Treporti peninsula: a jewel of the Venetian lagoon, perhaps better known by the German campers on the coastline than by those who are around the corner from it.
Michele Borgo grows 12,000 plants of purple artichoke, an artichoke that is typical of the Venetian islands (of the island of Sant’Erasmo, in particular) and that has its own trademark, one that only 13 manufacturers are allowed to use. It would be best to say that Michele doesn’t “grow” his plants but rather “takes care” of them because, working alone and without employees, he tends to them 9 months a year. This process must be flawless in order to ensure the success of a two and a half month period of sales: 60 percent of the final product is intended for the private sector, the rest is for the retail industry and markets.
Many people, in the silent and humid summer heat, reach the Borgo family‘s red house on the peninsula. During the weekends of April, May and June, hundreds of cars come to fill their trunks with the precious crops that grow and thrive in the Lio Piccolo sun.
“There are days when I cannot meet all requests but it flatters me to see the great interest for a product that is typical of our lagoon,” says Michele. From the first “castraura” cut (the first fruit of the artichoke plant) – term that is exclusively used by the members of the consortium -, to the “botolo” phase, and the “articioco” (the actual artichoke), each plant undergoes approximately fifteen cuts a year, and ends its natural cycle with the “fondi” and the distinctive purple flowering.
Michele began growing purple artichokes, proud of receiving his Slow Food certification, from the early 2000s. “I am Venetian, from the Cannaregio district – he says – My father bought this house from the Armenian community in the ’80s: those were the golden years for investments.” “Then, for a time afterward, an elderly tenant continued to live in the house; after him, my wife Marica and I moved here with the desire to start a family and commit ourselves to agriculture. We were, and still are, deeply in love. Our only desire has always been that of living with and for nature.”
Their dreams gave birth to Matteo (12 years old), Matilde (6) and Marco (4), who seem very happy to run among artichoke plants that are taller than they are. Michele says a beautiful thing: “I would never go back, I could not imagine myself away from the work and the life I have chosen. I’m glad that our children take off from here, from this reality, to undertake their own lives and future choices: to be able to appreciate these rhythms and make them your own is an important asset for any kind of future.”
Michele and Marica both have a degree in agricultural sciences. Marica works in the tax assistance office of Ca’ Savio (a fraction of Cavallino Treporti): “The artichoke business alone can’t support a family with three children, but we are happy to dedicate ourselves to the sector we have chosen for passion.”
There is no greater wealth than what makes you feel in the right place every day.