Let’s prepare yourself to a full immersion. A return back to past, to 1500 in Livorno Ferraris, Vercelli, the head city of the rice. One of the most interesting man I have ever met, Piero Rondolino, explains to his guests all they would like to know. A little bit prolix, but necessary to understand and discover what about his lands.
Tenuta Colombara is the place we are talking about. It is wide 140 hectares and the Rondolino family produces rice since 1935 when Mr Cesare Rondolino understood this was a perfect place to grow the Carnaroli specie. Seeing it from the outside it reminds on a past when there were mills, animals working, a little community of people living and lot a lot of mosquitoes. Well, things did not change too much far from your imagination. The Tenuta was so divided: there was the productive part and the inhabited one. Animals were the keys of the work because cows gave excrements used as fertilizer for the fields and horses were the motor that allowed to walk easily through them. At the bottom of the area there was the storage for rice, the buildings for the machines, silos, and all the working process. At the very first sight an enormous house appears and you’ll discover it’s the part dedicated to guests. A long floor full of rooms, old style fashioned, big bathrooms and very elegant baths. Everything here reminds you on a past life. Walls are covered by mistery and the two owners, Piero and Maria Nava, are definitely able to suggest you evoking a hidden imagery.
Starting from showing the animal’s shelters where they used to work they have another proof of the ancient place we are. At the bottom of the Tenuta, in the south part, there is a building all dedicated to what they call eco-museum: the incredible feeling you advert entering there is something everybody should experience. A room with a double stair leads you to a big empty room on your left and on the right the rest of what remains about the Mondine. Do you know what “Le Mondine” are? They are very powerful girls that decided to be job independent from men and gain their own money. Their name comes from the verb “mondare” that in Italian means take the bad herbs off. This was their job for 8 hour per day. The movement started in the late 1800 where all girls took trains and arrived to various destinations, worked a lot for about 40 days and return back with more money than men used to have if compared in days. Piero has an immense value in that bedroom: all beds are lying there in order one next to the other for a total of 30 beds in a room. All socks, skirts, bluses are recombined and arranged to be seen in a very careful way. Newspapers, shoes. You can breathe those pois-vintage dress hang on the wall.
This is all art. And what is interesting here is that Mr. Rondolino too is an art addicted. What had struck me the most about him is his willing to put some art in everything he does: the way he keeps his buildings, furniture, the way he looks and dresses, the way his wife does, sculptures outside in the court thanks to an artist that he hosts to let her express in that paradise.
You can easily understand he put art in his job too. Try to have a look to the product he commercializes and analyze it. Colors, shapes, names. Acquerello by itself cannot remind on nothing else than a painter that looses itself in front of a full landscape. The image should be the daugther of the name he says. That’s why he decided to show perfectly what Tenuta Colombara is on the package and what you can perceive by standing there looking at the panorama. Mountains, the big presumptuous house, fields. Everything in the innovative packaging of a can. A silver can that probably represents the mirroring of the water.
The exclusive place we are is a reflex of Piero personality and the rice too, takes something from the place it is born. Since he is very proud and vain the rice couldn’t be so different.
The first plant of rice is the risone, little stems, very delicate, brownish, pale. It covers the grain of rice and the first step of the process is blowing it away. The process goes on by cleaning the grain, peeling it, taking off the bad from the good ones. Refining them between rocks and…..The art of working rice is not that complex but what is done here is worth of patent. And this is really what happened because Piero found a special system to manage the grains: it takes the inner and precious part of them, the so-called “gemma”, and instead of throwing it away as normally people do because don’t know how to restore it he invented a machinery able to heat all those little pieces and let them be a sort cling film around the grains. As you can understand this increases enormously the flavor of the product and the commercial value. Piero is so proud to have invented this machinery that would like to tell everybody the immense nutritional and fine properties it gives to rice! Up to know are only a few who knows it and they do because had investigated on the price: 9,50 euro/kg on shelves. Not bad.
Where to find this rice? Of course on internet at http://www.acquerello.it , even if the website should be revisited a little bit, in special supermarkets as Whole Food in the USA or Eataly in our country. Don’t expect it is a rice you can buy weekly, just try to eat it in order to savour all the beauty is inside there and grant you a piece of art in your house.