Italians show their love through food and eating well, so here I arrive, at the Italian Cultural Centre (fondly known as il Centro*) armed with a box of pizza from Sciue`, a couple of limonate*^ in my purse, ready to chat with Angela Falco, the creative, savvy, Communications Coordinator at il Centro, about the soon to be launched Community Garden project, “Il Giardino.”**
Her enthusiasm for the project makes you want to go out and buy yourself a pair of gardening gloves. The project idea is simple: Il Centro has this fantastic green space – why not develop it into a garden, which in turn, will help sustain and engage the surrounding community?
Besides being one step closer to the ‘farm to plate’ utopia, il Giardino will be an amazing opportunity to connect the ‘seasoned gardeners’ in the Italian community to the third and fourth generations who are interested in exercising their ‘green thumb’ skills.
“Our goal is to partner our ‘seasoned gardeners’ with students from our Italian Language School,” says Angela, “especially now with this culture of urban farming and sustainability, our mentorship program will be a great vehicle to allow our first generation Italian-Canadians to share their knowledge and talents with the younger generations.”
Expect nothing but the best with il Centro’s take on the Community Garden – Italian-style. Highlights involved with this garden include 40 spacious plots, an orchard, which will house fruit trees such as fig, plum and apple. Vancouver’s first oven will be built to meet all your breads, focaccia and pizza crust baking desires. There is an apiary which houses two beehives, and yes, the bees are actually Italian – they are Italian honey bees! (I passed the apiary and I could have sworn I heard one of them say ‘buzz-ciao!’)
The paths in the garden will be marked by Italian street names, such as Via del Corso, Via Centrale, etc. But at this point in the conversation, nothing surprises me – marble slabs for street signs – please roll the credits to La Dolce Vita.~ ~
Of course, Rome was not built in a day, and this project definitely saw a few obstacles, “It was a learning experience,” says Angela. The design of the landscape proposed the biggest challenge: the area is on a slope, prolonging the development stage by over a year while the City of Vancouver and il Centro figured out the logistics of how to executive this aspect of the plan. The project finally broke ground in December 2014.
It’s wonderful to note how the neighbourhood surrounding il Centro has gotten involved. It seems that the Italian ‘famiglia’~ is ever expanding as different organizations in close proximity to il Centro partake in this venture. For example, BCIT designed and will build the garden shed, and the Art Institute has been instrumental in finding volunteers (i.e. their students) to assist with the construction of the plots. Westside Montessori Academy, il Centro’s onsite school, will be including the garden as part of their curriculum, so has the Art Institute in incorporating il Giardino into their culinary program. And Ilana from Fresh Roots Urban Farm has become their ‘Garden Guru.’
So how will Angela celebrate when the project is launched? “I’ll have a glass of wine with all the gardeners and toast to a great gardening season and a plentiful harvest.” Salute!*~
Il Giardino will have a ‘soft launch’ on May 15th which will coincide with il Centro’s first il Mercato – Night Market event for 2015. Keep an eye on il Centro’s online event calendar for the Grand Opening, to be scheduled sometime in July 2015.
*Definition: The Centre
*^Definition: A type of soda lemonade drink, Limonata, but in this case, it’s in the plural form
**Definition: The Gardens
~ ~Definition: The Sweet Life. Also the title of a Fellini film.