The Essence of Change

Photo by Lynsey Genson

Photo by Lynsey Genson

By Gavin Roddy

To walk through the streets of Cagli, Italy, one might think that change is an uphill battle. At the heart of the city is a piazza made of cobblestone roads, medieval churches, and today an archery festival with men and women looking as if they walked right out of the pages of “Robin Hood”.

But just beyond the piazza is an unexpected shop obscured by a few tables strewn together and covered in pamphlets extolling the benefits of organic products. A small sign that reads “Erboristeria” hangs on the wall outside, partially hidden by a shrub. Passing townspeople probably would not even realize the shop exists if not for the strong aroma of flowers that grabs one by the nose and carries them inside on a cloud of fragrances.

The shop sells strictly organic and vegan products. The two-room dwelling is filled to the brim with a hodgepodge of products ranging from Indian foods to scented candles to fragrances and vitamins. “Everything here is all natural,” says Patrizia Scaglioni, the store’s owner. Patrizia is 56, but could easily be 15 years younger. Somehow when Mother Nature handed people their ages, Patrizia gave her back 15 years and said, “I don’t need this yet.”

All-natural products must meet strict standards. They must be at least 90% biological to get the stamp of approval. “Every product in this store has that,” Patrizia proudly declares. As impressive a feat as that is it still fails to answer the biggest question of all: How does a small town in Italy still rooted in hundreds of years worth of traditions end up with a New Age organic store?

Patrizia came to Cagli 26 years ago to serve as Roaster of Parks. “My position was to oversee the maintenance of parks and other public lands, but I soon found myself stuck in an office and rubber-stamping documents all day,” she reflects, her body far too spry and her face too full of life to be chained to a desk. So four years later she “walked out and followed my soul.”

At around this time her son Giovanni (now 25) was born with health problems that required surgery. “I blamed myself for the way I had lived before he was born,” she solemnly remembers. Patrizia became frustrated with the medical bureaucracy and turned to Holistic medicine three years later. Since then, Giovanni and her younger son Simone (age 15) have grown to be healthy young men.

“After I made my change, this shop was a natural extension of my life,” Patrizia speaks, her face glowing. The first years were tough. It was difficult to introduce such a new concept to a small Italian town, but she persevered, “I took the show on the road, and went from village to village. Soon people came out and found a comfortable place here.” And now 22 years later people throughout the area make a kind of Holistic pilgrimage to her store, embracing a lifestyle one would not expect to find in a rural Italian town.

Patrizia points out that her business is about prevention. “The people who come to me are not sick. They need to be aligned in their diet and in their thinking.” In her back room, she keeps Holistic medical charts that diagram what herbs are best for what areas of the body and what muscles affect what emotions. Three colleagues who share her love for Holistic medicine work out of this room. They practice Shiatsu, allergy treatment, and aromatherapy.

But Patrizia is no longer content to simply sell products. This past week she finished her degree in Homeopathy at Rimini. With this degree she now understands not just herbs, but their roots as well. In addition to this Patrizia has taken on another role, manufacturer. She has created her own bath gel, “The Essence of Cagli” made from a flower native to the town.

As she reminisces about her own life, Patrizia expresses concern over the changes she has seen in Cagli. She worries that today’s youth are lost in drinking and smoking. The changes she has brought to Cagli are far more positive, “Every shop here now has some kind of natural product. But this is still the only complete shop in Cagli.” After 22 years, Patrizia is still as enthusiastic as ever and has not forgotten the secret to her success, “For happiness, look inside you.”

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