We have found our paradise. Well, atleast some version of paradise. Sean’s paradise is still located on an island with lots and lots of waves, a tiki hut, beer, and tacos and my paradise is pretty much anywhere that includes good food, good people and dogs EVERYWHERE. But, this agriturismo in Cassino was right up there with those things!
An agriturismo is basically a farm house in Italy where guests can come for the afternoon to enjoy pranzo (lunch) or even stay for the evening in one of their extra rooms/cabins/barns/etc. That is my sad attempt at a definition because I had a really hard time finding one. Who’s job is it to write definitions anyway?
We were on our way down from Rome and onward to Monte Di Procida so we decided to stop in Cassino which is about at the halfway point. We made reservations at La Selva Agriturismo totally on a whim — no one recommended it to us nor had we ever even heard of it…we were going strictly off an italian website we could barely even read. Our GPS lead us down a dirt road with overgrown trees, villas in the distance, vineyards to the right and olive trees to the left. Finally, after we were just about ready to turn around because we thought we had gotten lost, La Selva appeared through a wrought iron gate and a cypress tree-lined driveway. A dog ran across the cobblestone road and thats how we knew we were in the right place.
As we approached the villa, we could hear the quiet bustle of a family run business. One person yelling to the other to get table 2 more bread and to not forget table 10’s caffe. The hostess…aka daughter…sat us outside and we took in the sites of families passing a pasta dish, kids running around with a piece of crusty bread in hand and farm dogs scanning the ground for leftover scraps. Next to the house was a sparkling pool that sat next to the playground and behind the house was the farm and overflowing garden. The golden hue of the home and the wooden tables on the patio were inviting us to “Come, sit down…stay awhile.” And we did. Based on a prior experience at an agriturismo in Italy, we expected to pay a set price of about €35 per person and with that, we would sit down and be served wine and course after course of food. We would have to make ZERO decisions, except for when to pour the next glass and when to possibly take a walk around the grounds to explore the farm and view their garden. And that is exactly what happened.
“Ciao, benvenuto a La Selva. Vorresti vino rosso o bianco?” Hello, welcome to La Selva. Would you like red wine or white wine? …is how we started out our 4 hour “lunch” at this agriturismo. Like an angel, the waitress dropped off our first plate of food: the antipasti. We sat there and ate slowly, reminding ourselves to not eat everything in site so we could save room for more deliciousness that was to come. In an effort to not scarf down every little bite on our plate, we made it a point to absorb our surroundings. As our next course arrived, we not only admired the beautiful pasta that was so graciously placed infront of us, but we also admired the way people interacted with one another. I know I said this in our Rome post, but the people here are different. From what we can see, the interaction between one another is so pure, so raw, and so how it should be. Babies are passed around the table and phones remain in pockets. Conversations are full of passion and laughter is loud. We could see in plain view that for them, food is a way of life because life is meant to be shared and meals bring people together. The idea of this lifestyle gives me the feels and made me want to stay in that moment forever. But, the pasta was too good to let get cold so we soaked in the feelings and enjoyed the gnocchi and ravioli.
Our bellies needed a break so we picked up our glass and decided to take a lazy stroll through the property. We followed the sounds of clucking chickens and made it to the view of donkeys gnawing on some grass, bunnies lounging in the shade and sunflowers swaying in the warm breeze. I tried to refrain from thinking that I was possibly about the consume one of their chicken or rabbit friends because I knew they had a great life. They lived the way all animals should — in peace, with beautiful surroundings and cared for. You could tell these animals were loved and had everything they needed to live a very happy life (but I still felt a huge pang of guilt when Sean made a clucking sound as I ate the chicken that later ended up on my plate).
After we had walked off about 5 calories each and made a little more room in our stomach, we headed back for the main course. We savored every bite and just when I thought I only had enough room left for a little dolce and caffe, I began to “accidentally” drop a few scraps down to the farm dog that we self proclaimed as “Pepe.” If I could have brought him with us on our travels, I would have. But then I thought about the torture we would be putting him through by making him leave this magical place. Oh, and also the fact that he wasn’t ours and that would just be mean for us to take him!
Just as we finished the last sips of our wine, not a moment passed before our wine glasses were replaced with espresso cups. We decided on the baba torta for dessert which had a familiar taste, one we couldn’t put our finger on at first but then “ah, hah!”…it tasted like egg nog and all the wonderful flavors of Christmas. As if the day couldn’t get any better, they had to go and throw a little Christmas lovin’ in there.
We had just scarfed down plate after plate of food and our bellies were sad and happy at the same time. Sad in a “I kind of hate you, why did you stuff me like that?” way. And happy in a “I love so so much! Thank you for feeding me all that delicious food!” way. We sat there and waited for the bill, took in our last dose of the magic that was happening around us and noted that there were people who had arrived long before us and would probably stay long after us. And then suddenly, we were tired. Ya know, from all the relaxing, and people watching, and basically only moving to lift up our fork. We made it our mission to find a soft spot of grass on the property to take a little siesta…but the zanzare (mosquitos) viewed us as their “agriturismo feast” every place we tried to lay down our picnic blanket. So we bid farwell to beautiful La Selva and only made it as far as a quick drive down the tree covered road before we decided to pull off to the side, roll the windows down and take our siesta. I woke up hoping I didn’t just dream up the last few hours at La Selva.
Basically what we are telling you is that when you visit Italy, seek out an Agriturismo and GO!