Italy’s natural beauty endangered

blue bottle flower corn Cyanus segetumAfter translating the passage below this morning for my client Bele Casel, I couldn’t help but do a little reading about the Italian blue cornflower, Centaurea cyanus (“commonly known as cornflower, bachelor’s button, bluebottle, boutonniere flower, hurtsickle or cyani flower… an annual flowering plant in the family Asteraceae, native to Europe”).

The cornflower, or fiordaliso as it is known in Italy, was once commonly found across Italy’s farm land. Today, it’s relatively rare.

Most agree — according to what I found on the internets this morning — that its disappearance is due to expansion of chemical-based commercial farming in Europe.

“It is now endangered,” reports the Wiki, “in its native habitat by agricultural intensification, particularly over-use of herbicides, destroying its habitat; in the United Kingdom it has declined from 264 sites to just 3 sites in the last 50 years.”

Here’s what a journalist in Piedmont had to say about the fiordaliso: “The advent of pesticides and seed breeding [please click this link to learn more about “seed breeding”] has certainly helped to increase agricultural production. But it has also denied our children the opportunity to enjoy this poetic sight in our wheat fields.”

The excerpted translation (mine) comes from a 2011 article about school programs that teach students how to grow cornflowers in the classroom.

I hope this background information will help to make Paola Ferraro’s note (below) more meaningful to readers.

I’ve always been impressed with the Ferraro family and Bele Casel’s commitment to chemical-free farming in their vineyards. They see it as a means to deliver a better product. There’s no doubt about that. But they also view it — first and foremost — as a civic duty and societal responsibility. If not them, I’m sure that grape grower Luca Ferraro and his sister Paola would agree, who will try to protect Italy’s natural beauty and its wondrous natural resources?

On a rainy, dreary day here in Houston, Paola’s note brought a ray of sunshine into our home… Buona lettura. I hope you enjoy her note as much as I did translating it.


My mother has often told me about how she used to ride her bicycle through fields that were full of cornflowers when she was a little girl.

And whenever she remembers those days, she always gets a little sad because you really don’t see them in the fields anymore.

The other day, when we went to pick some flowers in our vineyard in Cornuda and she saw some cornflowers, the smile on her face made me so happy. It was one of those smiles that come from deep down in your heart.

Nature is a truly wondrous thing and it’s such a pity that so many — too many — people don’t understand that.

Paola Ferraro

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