A day with Flavio Viacava at his Piccola Fattoria di Flavio, virtuous Tuscan farm between cows, ricotta, bees and honeys.
In the countryside surrounding Pietrasanta, in Tuscany, is located La Piccola Fattoria di Flavio, Flavio Viacava’s farm, famous for its honeys.
This precious food is one of the most evocative elements of our culinary history, dense with meanings and allegorically warm and passional, result of a collective hard work. We tried to see it through the eyes of one of the world’s most enlightened beekeepers.
Why did you dedicate your life to bees?
When I was a kid, I always used to go to my mother’s uncle and play with his horses, close by the sea. One day I decided to skip the same old road and walk through a secondary one. From a distance I saw a man, working next to these tiny houses, protected by a rudimental mask composed by a large straw hat and a net. I stopped to understand what he was doing, when I was invited to help him. I wore another mask and I started. I was shocked. That moment started my passion for these outstanding creatures and their magical gifts. I am tremendously in love with bees, I feel honored to keep them and I wouldn’t change my job with any other: they are part of my family.
Which kind of products do you offer?
We - my bees and I - realize many types of honeys, thanks to nomadism: in specific times I move them to special places around Italy, where they will work with those same aromas you will find in the final results. From the chestnut to the acacia one, from the ivy to the beach one, a wildflower honey with a huge presence of Helichrysum, typically present in the Tuscan coast. It brings you back to those golden dunes that, in summertime, dialogue with the Mediterranean plants and the sea, in a painting of sounds, colors and scents. It’s like perceiving that light breeze caressing your skin, while saltiness pervades the hot air and the waves rhythm becomes a melody suggesting cicadas songs. For everyone who lived this all: it is pure memory, pure emotion.
Honey is, after all, a very versatile ingredient, you just need to understand its diversity and leave superficiality. Every product is different, unique in its peculiar fragrance and ability to be used in specific preparations. How can we compare a linden to an orange and generalize as “honey”? We appreciate this beneficial ingredient since thousands of years, consuming it as a medicine, condiment, natural preservative and as a base for alcohols. Knowing how to use it is fundamental.
Why are bees so special for you?
Everything. They are astonishingly surprising.
I always think of how much we should learn, especially regarding cohesion and unity of purpose. They can repair, build and produce, remaining extremely organized and composed, managing to keep their house clean, regardless of the population size. They are tuned towards a common goal, equally dividing jobs, alleviating hard tasks and maintaining a social structure that, for them, works very well.
One of the most fascinating aspects is their mummification power: when a big-sized intruder enters the hive and gets killed by the bees, it might be too heavy to be moved outside. Therefore, in order to avoid dirtiness and contaminations, they mummify it using propolis, a sterilizing and resinous substance collected from tree buds. I am every day more surprised by the strength of these little giants and I often ask myself how they are able to realize everything I sell. I owe them so much.
What can we do for them?
We know how bees are in a huge danger, and they are sadly not alone. Intensive agricolture and not biodiverse monocolture, as well as a barbaric usage of chemicals, are determining a devastating mortality. A trauma for Earth. Many bugs are indeed at the base of multiple ecosystems. We need to drastically cut the utilization of those ignoble poisons and start to widely adopt pollinators-friendly plants. There are many ethical initiatives at the moment: they are very easy to be approached and they can be comfortably realized from home. It all passes through awareness and responsibility. We steal every drop of work from these tender and diligent bugs and we should at least try to protect them, both for our convenience and for moral honesty, to thank them.
Bees always assumed, since forever, a deeply symbolic and spiritual value; a living representation of divine willpower, of a curative being, of poetic simplicity linked to flowers subtlety. And the results of their impassible laboriousness become nourishment, reassurance, enjoyment and health. The pureness of Piccola Fattoria honeys are mirroring Flavio’s love for his creatures, the same vital love he feels in his cows eyes: full of understanding, agreement, care and respect. Those honeys have intense taste and perfume, simply pervasive and so disarming. They donate breath, charge, energy e and positive strength. The color and the texture accentuates the rarity, as if they were part of an ancient treasure which has just been discovered. Or re-discovered. Yes, because we have certain knowledge inside, since forever: it was necessary to enter an era of soul-less and flavor-less sterile products to understand how much we missed it, how much we missed life; to escape our immersive days and search for a natural flicker, for the power of the obvious, of banality, of reality, of the evident; to re-understand how, in between incredible technological leaps, we can still be amazed by a little, soft, black and yellow bug and its marvelous gold.