STORIES

Eugenio Mattiacci: mountain farm

Story by Adam Holst

It is black as night, feels like a golf ball, and looks like something found in the aftermath of an explosion. So why does Eugenio Mattiacci beam with pride when he holds it? Because it’s a truffle.

This truffle has a special story. It was dug out of the forest and carried home by Perlo, one of the many pint-sized dogs at Eugenio’s farm located on a mountainside just outside Cagli, Italy. Truffles are a valuable delicacy. Eugenio and his wife, Anna, keep their truffles in an airtight jar in an off-white refrigerator that sits in their farm home literally paid for with sweat equity. Eugenio owns the home and the acreage around it. He earned the farm as payment for putting in 18 years of labor for the previous owner.

Eugenio moved to the area as a 6-year-old boy. When he was old enough to begin working, he was hired as a farm hand. There were no contracts. Instead, he understood that if he did enough work, he would be compensated. Today, he proudly calls this farm his home and has done so for nearly half a decade.

Life on the farm took a twist 10 years ago when Eugenio’s brother died. Now, Anna and Eugenio care for Eugenio’s adult nephew, Mossimo, who is mentally disabled. ¬†Among other duties, Mossimo feeds and waters the animals. If not for the farm, Eugenio says, Mossimo would be in an institution. Eugenio says he likes having Mossimo’s around because he is “tranquil.”

Like many farmers, Eugenio and Mossimo start work at sunrise. Around 5 a.m., they spend time in the fields. They feed the animals, and they plant the gardens. At noon, they go inside for pasta, meat, and rest. In the afternoon, they cut wood. They tend to the neighboring bed and breakfast, and then feed the animals again. Eugenio normally finishes his work around 7 p.m., and then goes inside for dinner. If they are feeling social, Eugenio and Anna head into town for some gelato or coffee in Cagli’s piazza. If not, they watch television and go to sleep.

His father taught Eugenio everything about farming. Eugenio cares for all his animal’s medical needs. He makes certain the farm is stocked with enough food. As evidenced by a mounted fox that hangs above the fireplace, Eugenio protects his animals. He shot the fox because it was stealing his chickens.

In the last 50 years, he has not left this farm for more than a day. On occasion, he and his family travel to the beach, but only for a half day. Eugenio says he loves his life and plans to keep this mountainside farm thriving for as long as he can.

“If I leave all the animals will die,” he says. “They need me.”

portrait of eugenio mattiacci

Eugenio Mattiacci stands near the barn of his mountainside farm.

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