Colline Recoleta is an organic farm owned by my family since 1992 and situated in the hilly landscape just off the long white sand beaches of the Ionian coast in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy. It is located in the province of Matera, the city famous for its ancient cave dwellings. However, the region is relatively unknown outside Italy, making it one of a few parts of Italy where the culture and food remain authentic and untouched by the world beyond.
The farm takes its name from the nearby Recoleta Masseria, a medieval fortified country house on an estate dating back to the 17th and 18th century. Recoleta is said to mean “arugula” stemming from a local folk tale, where the herb saved the life of the estate baron’s son.
Located at an altitude of approximately 100 meters above sea level, the farm has a good balance in temperatures, further improved by the nearby Lucan Appennine mountains, which protect it from cold winds. This combined with the very fertile soil, as the area is located in between the Bradano and Basento rivers, makes it an excellent area to grow rich flavoured oranges. It is no wonder that the area is often referred to as the California of Italy.
The farm is part of the Montalbano Jonico Reserve – the largest of Basilicata – which boasts unique geological features and is rich in natural, archaeological and cultural heritage. Surrounded by pines and cypresses, the typical ravines known as ‘calanchi’ extend up to the cultivated fields and exhibit unique landscapes. The geosite of Tempa Petrolla, a rocky outcrop emerging from the clay can be named as an example. The landscape of calanchi is rich in flora and fauna, especially birds. That’s why the reserve has been identified as a European level I.B.A. (Important Bird Area). The reserve offers plenty of nature tracks, based on ancient paths, mule tracks and livestock immigrations routes, leading from the sea inlands, for example to the peaks of Pollino National Park.
Our small farm is based on sustainable cultivation and respect for the environment.
We crush green waste from pruning the trees to obtain a high quality fertilizer, which encourages the presence of microorganisms that slowly disintegrate the waste and transform it into humus and nutrients that keep the soil healthy. We also use organic manure to feed the soil. Every year we harvest all the oranges, even if the whole production is not sold, as the humus from citrus fruits makes the soil too acidic. We give the leftover oranges to friends and family.
We fight the presence of harmful parasites with a natural trap system: we hang bottles with rotten fish from our local fish vendor throughout the farm, which attract most of the parasites.
Our farm is located in a region with drought risk, making water a precious resource. We are therefore using a drip irrigation system, which concentrates the watering around the trees and reduces its usage. Also thanks to this system, the weed growth is reduced. The remaining weed is mowed and used to fertilize the soil and protect the roots of the trees.
The energy consumption of our farm is next to nothing, as all work is done manually. Besides, we are very conscious about reducing our environmental impact, for example by using larger green waste as branches and trunks to heat our home.
Colline Recoleta is a family project, and most of the work is done by ourselves. During pruning and harvest, which are done by hand, we involve a team of local workers to help. We are proud of the results and developments of the farm thanks to our collective efforts, and we continue to work to improve and learn.