Straight cut water mirrors, blades glancing timidly from under the wet surface or bright green of fields decorated with canals glittering in the sun. The plain rarely allures with its beauty. But every time I pass by the fields of rise in Piedmont – no matter what the season is – my attention is drawn by an incredible scenery. Mostly in summer, when light juicy green blanket covers the water world.
Obviously Italy is not famous for the rice cultivation. When we think about the Apennine Peninsula we have a picture of hills, the land of grapevine varieties, or citrus and olive trees. And it’s hard to believe Italy is the biggest European producer of this grain (1,5 millions tonnes per year). Sure, it’s nothing when we compare with a such giant like China (nearly 200 MM tonnes) or India (150 MM tonnes). Which doesn’t change the fact that water fields on the Po Valley make a impression on each visitor.
The most significant concentration of this grain production is located in Lombardy and Piedmont region, but also in other parts of Italy. Vercelli city surroundings, less Novara neighborhood, it’s the rice kingdom, where a huge plain is diversified only by agricultural buildings and some of them look more like palaces than rural buildings.
The rice cultivation we can divide into four phases. At the end of winter or in the beginning of spring the soil needs to be prepared for a new season. In April starts seeding process and the fields are inundate with water taken from artificial canals. The biggest one – Canale Cavour (85 kilometers long) – is located on north-west part of Piemonte and it’s fed by the Po river water. It was named after Camillo Benso di Cavour, the first prime minister of Italy, one of its progenitor in the 19th century. Few days past and plants started to penetrate the surface of water. The third phase consist in weeding procedure that in most cases is replaced by the use of chemicals. The harvesting takes place in September or in October when grains are separated from blades.
Risaie in Piemonte is more than agriculture area, as it has become an interesting tourist destination. You can find there well-preserved old abbeys, like for example Principato di Lucedio. It’s both farm and font of knowledge about rice cultivation, its history, interesting recipes, and even cooking courses events. For more information go to: http://www.principatodilucedio.it/home.php