When I write about a place, I usually have to concentrate and imagine I was still there, to recall the feelings I got, the colors I saw, the sounds I heard and so on. But this time it’s going to be easier. Because the feeling I got at Cà du Ferrà Farm & Relax in Bonassola, Italy never really left me.
The little town of Bonassola, in the Italian Riviera, is just about 1 hour away from my hometown and didn’t sound very exotic to me at first, so I accepted the invite with pleasure but definitely not the same excitement I had when I was offered a trip to the Caribbean. In the end, this short getaway meant a lot more than I expected to me, and if there’s a hard part in this review is to precisely explain how, and convey my feelings to you.
I will do so by taking you with me throughout the day I spent with Antonio, Aida and their son Davide: the Zoppi family.
On the last email I got, they mentioned a nice bicycle path and I was secretly very worried about it – I am not trained and my last biking experience (in 2009!) was a bit tragic. Davide and Antonio told me not to worry as we left the agritourism with our bicycles. They made me feel comfortable, and I got more and more confident as we went.
I am so happy I didn’t turn down the invitation, for multiple reasons: the landscapes, the discoveries, the talks.
By the time we reached our first stop, the “Madonna della Punta” little chapel with a breathtaking view on the sea, me and Davide were already having deep, interesting conversations, while his father Antonio was showing me around pointing at all the landmarks and telling me about the memories he associated to them. There’s nothing like a personal story to really make you feel the vibe of a place. Mr Antonio really belongs to the history of Bonassola!
The landscape on the way to and around Madonna della Punta is simply beautiful, you can smell the sea, and the flowers, it’s just so… Mediterranean!
The biggest surprise was the super cool, scenic cycling path they recently ‘built’, out of the ancient railway. Basically, when the railway was moved uphill, the old tunnels remained empty for many years. Now you can easily go cycling all the way from Framura to Levanto (and through Bonassola) in this straight tunnel, that stays fresh in the summer, and offers beautiful views: on your side you find some terraces every now and then, perched over the sea. It’s fun to discover the next one, and find a different view each time. Sometimes you even find stairs to reach the sea and bathe in private, beautiful little inlets.
It’s an easy, straight, beautiful path of 5km… and if I did it, everyone can. Believe me!
I believe it took us around 1 hour to see all this. We biked, and stopped here and there, I took photos, and then back to our bikes. While pedaling, Davide and me found ourselves sharing our opinions on bio, organic food, and on how important it is to know the provenience of what we eat. We discussed our views on vegetarianism, and the “Km 0” concept (locally produced food). We agreed on everything.
Back at the agritourism, Aida was waiting for us in the gazebo with the most delicious focaccia I had in a long time. Pair it with fresh Stracchino cheese, add fresh fruit from the garden, and there you have the perfect summer lunch!
You may think I didn’t say much about the accommodation itself, but the thing is that spending time with the Zoppi Family is actually part of the experience at Cà du Ferrà! I found positive energy here. I found the genuine will to offer a product of excellent quality. I found sincere love and dedication for the farming.
After lunch, I ‘interviewed’ them to find out more about the agritourism. So here are all the facts you were waiting for!
Cà du Ferrà Farm & Relax: what’s in the name?
“Cà du Ferrà” literally means “Blacksmith’s house” in the local dialect. This name comes from the area where the vineyards are, just above Bonassola. By next year all production will be biological.
“Farm and Relax” as opposed to the dialectal part of the name, indicates a Glocal (global-local) approach to hospitality: modern, international, active on social media, but still traditional, with a taste of home.
If you visit, please ask Antonio to take you to the vineyards and you won’t regret it. While the agritourism is close to the sea, the vineyards are uphill and from up there you can enjoy beautiful views.
More details about the premises please!
The agritourism includes two separate buildings. One is called “Il Casottino (=the little house)” and was once a henhouse, and the other one is called “Il Mulino (=the mill)” and used to be a stable. There are four bedrooms in total, two for each building.
It was interesting to learn that this valley is called “The Valley of the Mills” because back in the 18th and 19th centuries there used to be about 10 mills and 13 oil mills just here.
What services are offered?
Heaven wouldn’t be heaven without wifi, right? Of course there’s wifi here, and it’s for free!
The private parking is also free of charge. You can leave your car there because you won’t need it during your stay. What you can do is rent a bike and move around easily thanks to the cycling paths of the area.
Breakfast is on request for €5, and includes homemade organic yogurt, cakes and bread, plus coffee, tea, juice and so on. It’s a huge breakfast, a great way to start your day, highly recommended!
Herbs, vegetables and fruits come straight from the garden. You can pick your strawberries! Then you have a refrigerator and a grill by your gazebo, to store and cook your own food.
To sum it all up, what is offered at Cà du Ferrà is the luxury of living comfortably in contact with nature.
Things to do in Bonassola and around
- As I mentioned before, the cycling path is a must. The path also has a “lane” for walking if you’re not into biking. This path is included in the “100 suggested itineraries of the Italian Touring Club“.
- Of course, when you are in the area you will want to visit the Cinque Terre. Bonassola is just a few minutes away from Monterosso, but less famous, so it’s a great alternative to avoid the crowds, discover something new, and stay in a beautiful place.
- Hiking: there are 42 kilometers (about 26 miles) of paths in the surrounding hills. #1 goes all the way from Sestri Levante to the Cinque Terre.
- The small town of Framura, at one end of the cycling path, has a beautiful sea that received the “Blue Flag 2013” for being so clean.
- Levanto, an the other end of the cycling path, is a well known destination for surfers. Last year the world championship of long board took place here.
- At Cà du Ferrà you can bathe in the creek, in total privacy. Fairy tale lifestyle included in the price!
And above all, as Aida told me:
At Cà du Ferrà you can find yourself if you got lost.
The easiest way to reach Bonassola is by train. Cà du Ferrà is a short walk away from the station, and from the seaside too. No need for a car, so if you have one you can leave it in the private parking and then explore the area by train, walking or biking.
Huge YES! And this makes me love the place even more. It’s rare to find such openness in the area.
Of course! You can freely bring your pet here and maybe it will even get along well with the local cat, Slim, that lives in the garden.
Where does the inspiration come from?
Antonio once had a construction business and invested all his passion for renovation in the agritourism, which opened in 2000, and in taking care of the vineyards. In addition, starting from next year, Cà du Ferrà will also start an olive tree grove, and a plantation of fruit, grown with ancient techniques, such as apples, pears, apricots, plums etc.
The “3 Rs”
The core values at Cà du Ferrà are best summed up in the so called “3 Rs“:
- Respect for people
- Respect for animals
- Respect for the environment
I believe the worldwide trend is now going in this direction. Eco-friendly is the way, and the Zoppi Family has operated in this direction since many years, as a real pioneer. Here you won’t be treated as a customer but rather personally, as a guest: the right starting point for an authentic experience you won’t forget!
Last but not least: the WOW factor
What’s the thing you are most proud of?
Antonio is proud that he built this place together with his workers, and he still smiles thinking back of how the project took shape in his mind.
Aida has no doubt: the biggest satisfaction is hearing the guests going “WOW” every time they see the place for the first time. This is her favorite reward for all the hard work!
One of the most common comments is that Cà du Ferrà is a place where everything works, despite the reputation of Italy.
That night, I had dinner by the sea. The sun was setting and everything was in the shades of blue. After a short walk by the shore, I went back to my mill, with a huge smile on my face. But surprises weren’t over. As I opened the window to close the shutters, I was said goodnight by the surrounding nature, in the most beautiful possible way.
I will always cherish this image in my best travel memories:
I look outside. It’s completely dark. I can’t see the creek in front of me, but I can hear its sound. Little by little I start seeing some details, I look up and the Big Dipper is there. On the left, the moon shines bright in the sky. And among the trees here are ten, twenty, a hundred fireflies that fly and fill my heart with peace.
Closing that window was such a pity. I stared in contemplation for an hour or so. Then I had a happy sleep.