Crossing Northern Italy from Vercelli to Pavia by way of Novara, the traveler will come in contact with a truly extraordinary countryside. Its spectacular mirrors of water in which spring so loves to reflect itself are transformed by summer into lush emerald green rice fields which by autumn will become an intricate embroidery of gold tinged mature rice sprays. This is the rice field...
‘The Great Rice Field Italy’ which, following its winter repose, comes to life again where ever it reigns season after season.
Before the age of modern agricultural mechanization, the ‘queens’ of this realm flooded with water and rice were the ‘mondine’; the women that worked in the rice fields. They came from every part of Italy to take up their work with dignity; from four in the morning to late afternoon, backs bent over and feet in the water, in the cold humidity of night and under the scorching sun of midday. Food was scarce, beds were made of straw, and fever was waiting to consume bodies already dried up by the sun. All these hardships endured to earn a small seasonal wage and a sack of rice to feed their families with the following winter.
To better understand this world, ‘The Great Rice Field Italy’ includes the story written by the ‘La Marchesa Colombi’ (in 1878) entitled ‘In the Rice Field’. It is an intense account of rural farm life of the period seen through the eyes of Nanna, a young country girl and rice field worker who, through the course of the tale, will watch the flame of her own beauty extinguish in the waters of the fields.
Accompanying La Marchesa Colombi’s descriptive prose are photographs which unite past and present: images of sky, water and earth populated by owls and herons. The faces and fatigue of the ‘mondine’ are revealed as well as the tools and objects of a past that has disappeared of everyday life between the farm and the fields, marked only by hard work and uncontaminated nature.
The story is also interactive: amidst traditional clothes and recipes, ‘rice’ itself becomes the leading character in a journey made of colors and tastes across all regions of Italy.
‘Rice Field Italy’ is introduced by the precise and observant pen of Thomas Jefferson. While in Europe as a diplomat in the spring of 1787, Jefferson took a brief journey through Northern Italy of which he wrote, illustrating farm life, the tastes of Italian cooking, wines, cheese and rice. The words of the future President of the United States sets the stage for a refined collection of interactive epochal maps of the European countries.
These are accompanied by original recipes using rice. ‘The Great Rice Field Italy’ is a book to be tasted as well as read.