THE HILLS OF ALCE NERO

Montebello di Urbino, the hill of the Alce Nero cooperative experience, where Italy’s organic movement

first took root. Thirty years of work.

Recently, I looked back over photos of the old monastery when it was in ruins, including one spot in
particular: the refectory, with doors and windows and a roof overhead, that only Alfio, a construction
worker from Isola del Piano, had the courage to repair. We had no electricity, nor running water, and we
warmed ourselves with a fireplace and a stove. Even the road to reach it wasn’t easily to travel. In one
photo, I see myself in the stable, milking cows full of milk, and in another, with a tractor full of hay that
was ready, but surrounded by half a metre of snow. I also saw our co-starring friends in the adventure,
sitting round a laden table that my wife always managed to keep sufficiently stocked for all our hearty
appetites in those youthful years.
Deep emotions overcame me in rereading a passage I had written in 1973, in which I recalled the
farm life of my youth, after the war, with the trades, daily routines, and protagonists of a world that had
existed ever since Cain first cultivated the land, after millennia of hunting, gathering, and herding. I
thank the Lord every day for having brought me into the world in the middle of this extraordinary human
experience that is the history of the ancient farmers.
I am happy with the work I have succeeded in doing with the Alce Nero Cooperative, and I am aware
that organic and biodynamic farming represent the cure for the countryside’s deep wounds.
If a sector called organic exists in Italy today, representing 1,600 million Euros in turnover, I know that I
have made an important contribution in bringing this about: twenty books published, written personally
or edited by me; three-hundred conferences and meetings from Switzerland to Sicily, in which I affirmed
the importance and necessity of this new field and of supporting an organization and new projects for
country life.
I should also confess that when I first began to work on Alce Nero, I practiced biodynamic agriculture,
which I firmly believe in to this day, but I had to ask myself if that type of farming could become a
cultural phenomenon, and having answered myself in the negative, I shifted to practicing and spreading

organic farming. The fifty thousand companies practicing organic farming today confirm that I was right.
What should we be doing in farmland today? That is the focus of today’s agenda, which concerns all of
us. Why don’t we begin with what Montebello proposes today?
Montebello today
After working hard to spread our pasta throughout the world, in Germany, Switzerland, France, USA,
and Japan (where my book Black Elk Shouts is about to come out) in particular, along with the life
philosophy from which it began, I’d like to dedicate some of my time to welcoming those who wish to
relax in one of the most beautiful corners of the province of Pesaro and Urbino, and to opening the
doors of the Monastery of Montebello to them, with its six-hundred years of history, its library, and its
secrets.
Perhaps taking groups on two- or three- hour hikes along paths where foxes are our only companions,
toward the ancient oak of Palazzo del Piano, born in the time of Federico da Montefeltro, and toward
Villa la Croce, where a group of Germans have restored the beautiful stone village. In the museum
dedicated to the everyday life of our ancestors, located in the monastery, guests can retrace the
customs, habits, and history of our area, and in the near future, thanks to the Fund of the Hieronymites
(an order that came into being here at the end of the 14th century), found in the Vatican Secret
Archives, an exhibit on the Order of St. Jerome (Ordine dei Poveri Eremiti di San Girolamo) will also
soon be on display.