via Christine Juette
Today we travel to picturesque Tuscany with Luisa Cipolla who runs Il Rigo along with her husband Matthias. Il Rigo has been in Luisa’s family for nine-generations and guests can stay at one of Il Rigo ancient farmhouses, stroll through the gardens which are filled with spring blooms, take a dip in the swimming pond during the warmer weather and embrace Italian cuisine with a cooking class led by Luisa’s parents, Vittorio and Lorenza.
In this interview Luisa shares about what it was like growing up at Il Rigo located in the heart of Val d’Orcia, and inside look into what amenities guests can enjoy during their stay, and the dishes she creates for wedding celebrations at the villa.
Via Studio Magenta
Il Rigo (located in the heart of Val d’Orcia) has been in your family for nine generations including Casabianca which is part of the original structure that was owned by the Hospital of S. Maria della Scala before being bought by your family. What was it like growing up at Il Rigo?
It was magical, especially the first years of my childhood, when I was 5-10. I was running freely in this beautiful place, picking wildflowers, tending to sheep and chickens together with the old couple of farmers that lived at Il Rigo, being the star of the farm! Then, growing up, all the limits of living in a small village, far away from school and friends (I had to take a 30min bus to reach my high school), and being dependent by parents driving me around, was not that magical, but rather tough!
In 2012 your parents Vittorio and Lorenza passed Il Rigo over to you and your husband Matthias. What has been the best part about running Il Rigo?
Well, this job is beautiful, but very demanding as well! The best part is having the chance to live in a dreamy place like Val d’Orcia! I mean, from the window above my sink I can see Belvedere, the most iconic Tuscan landscape you can imagine, while I wash dishes! I also love the fact that we can do a lot of jobs. I mean, I’m not a “specialist” in any field, and here I have the chance to cook, gardening, farming the land, but also organizing weddings, arranging flowers, writing blog posts. Matthias and I really do lots of different tasks by ourselves!
Il Rigo’s rooms are divided between your two farmhouses, Casabianca (the main house) and Porggio Bacoco (the annex) which have been furnished with antiques and offer beautiful views of the Tuscan hills. Where did your family find some of the antiques featured in the rooms?
Surprisingly many pieces come from my father’s proprieties, old houses he owns. Others have been costume-made by local artisan using old materials. We also visit often antique markets (in Arezzo there is the most important antique market of Europe) but also “robivecchi”, shops with piles of old stuff where you can really find incredible pieces that have to be restored. If you are passionate of antiques there are many interesting markets and shops to visit in the area!
Guests can enjoy both breakfast, dinner at Il Rigo in addition to hands on cooking classes (at your family home ‘Casa dell’Abate Naldi’ in San Quirico d’Orcia) to immerse themselves in the world of Tuscan culinary traditions. What are some of the traditional Italian lunch recipes that your parents (Vittorio and Lorenza) have taught at recent (or upcoming) cooking classes?
Fresh pasta is for sure a very beloved recipe we propose for the class: you can make tagliatelle, or filled ravioli or tortelli, or lasagna, it’s very versatile! Also the “pici”, very traditional egg-less pasta typical of Val d’Orcia, is something we love to prepare during the classes!
Il Rigo has been a certified organic farm since the 1990’s and grows organic heirloom grains (to produce your own stone milled flour used in your kitchen to create breads, cakes and pasta) and olives that you cold press at your local stone olive mill. What is the best part about being able to create your own flour and olive oils on location?
Unfortunately nowadays industrial agriculture deprived us of a incredible range of flavours and nutritional elements that our grandparents knew: we are used to one kind of flour, milled in one single way, but once you know more these ingredients you find out how much a recipe can change, just using a whole grain flour instead of a regular milled one! The other great thing is that you can really use fresh materials, genuine, that have been growing sustainably, that didn’t travel long distances, but that basically are grown, processed and consumed within 10 miles! Imagine the benefit that has on the environment and in the micro-economy of our region!
Il Rigo has been the wedding location for couples from around the world. What are some of the dishes that you create for wedding guests?
One of the favorite first courses is the “Siennese pesto lasagna, with sliced almonds and zucchini flowers”. It’s a perfect first course for a late spring or summer wedding, when basil and zucchini are in season!
Another beloved recipe is the braised Chianina beef, stewed with herbs in Brunello red wine! It’s tender and delicious. I also offer very often our “stuffed rabbit with chard, potatoes and wild fennel flowers”. It’s a great, traditional recipe, and for us is quite common to prepare hare or rabbit, but I know that in the US that’s considered a bit unusual!
For a summer wedding, what are some of the flowers from your cut flower garden that you like to include in the bridal bouquet?
In summer we have an abundance of zinnias, delicate cosmos and dahlias! These flowers cannot be missed in our garden, but I love umbelliferae as well, as ammi majus, visnaga and wild carrots! I’m a fan of colorful weddings, and I grow tagetes, rudbekias and amaranth, for these brides that, like me, don’t dislike vibrant yellows and oranges!
What are some of the amenities that guests can enjoy during their stay?
We offer a rich homemade breakfast, and usually after that we are sharing information and advice for activities! You can book our lunch pack and pick a map, to enjoy enjoy your meal under an olive tree along the many trails that start from Il Rigo.
Our reception and bar opens again after lunch and you can indulge in an Aperol spritz, watching the sunset in the deck chairs or benches scattered around the garden.
We don’t have a pool, as we always thought that a blue pool with chlorine would hardly fit in the natural ecosystem of our farm! Instead you can jump among water lilies and frogs to refresh yourself in our swimming pond!
Where are some of the places in Val d’Orcia and the surrounding area that you suggest guests visit?
For the first day you cannot miss Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia and it’s Italian garden and Bagno Vignoni. A scenic drive through the Crete Senesi is also warmly recommended, but if you have the chance to stay a bit longer, there is nothing better that having a hike or a biking tour, as you can fully appreciate the beauty of this landscape only if you literally slow down.
Kim Maru Photography
You were originally set to host the RAW & Gather workshop April 25-28th, and guests would have been able to create floral arrangements from florals featured in Il Rigo’s garden. What are some of the flowers that are blooming in your garden right now?
Yes, it’s heartbreaking not to be able to design with the gorgeous flowers blooming at the moment! My garden displays a nice variety of colorful ranunculus and anemones, cornflowers, blue honeywort, columbines, and a number of wild shrubs, like the delicate quince tree (that makes the most beautiful, delicate blush pink flower), hawthorn, dogwood, and wild flowers like red poppies, lilac gladioli, lace flowers, honesty and so many more.
During this time when many of the countries around the world are under lockdown and have shut down their borders, what are some of the ways you’ve been filling your days until it’s safe for guests to travel again?
Actually I’m so busy these days, I still have lots and lots of work to do, especially at the computer! But for the rest of the time I’m gardening, in the flower garden and in the big vegetable garden as well. I’m spending around 4-5 hours a day in the garden, when it’s not raining. Then I’m trying to learn how to photograph the flowers and some dishes I prepared, so I do some photoshoots as well, even though I still have much to learn.
I’ve also been walking and did yoga classes online as well! I’m trying to keep myself busy, also physically busy as much as possible. In these difficult moments there is no better cure than focusing on the now, and being active!
Book your stay at Il Rigo via the website, and keep up with everything going on at Il Rigo via Instagram @agriturismo_il_rigo
All photos provided by Luisa Cipolla, all photos by Luisa unless otherwise noted.