Uncovering Italy’s Superlatives in people, places and things

Agriconcura, Farming with Care and Quinto Sapore

From Umbria farm to table

Quinto Sapore, the fifth taste, is the holy grail for foodies in a quintuplet of sensations that includes sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savouriness. It’s umami, delicious and tasty, and in Italy, Quinto Sapore is 25 hectares in Città della Pieve Umbria.

Enter the brothers Giuggioli, identical twins Nicola and Alessandro whose careers in business and film, respectively, have taken them around the world, only to return them to the Umbrian countryside to cultivate a very large garden, Quinto Sapore, which practices eco-sustainability farming, promotes biodiversity, fosters positive workmanship and welfare, and happens to have an incredible collection of seeds from long-forgotten fruits and vegetables.

Quinto Sapore team at work

Introducing the Guggioli Brothers

Nicola and Alessandro are Roman in accent and attitude. They grew up in the Eternal City but the family spent most of their free time at a farmhouse in Umbria where the twins developed a love for the outdoors and for gardening and curiosity for the peculiar and different, especially in the world of produce. It all started with seeds.

“When we were 14, and ever since then, when we were traveling around the world or around the markets in Italy, every time we found something strange and different, we used to buy it, take the seeds, and try to reseed them.” tells Alessandro. From the seeds grew an idea that would catapult them through adolescence, university and the professional world – Nicola as president of Eco-Age, the eco-sustainable consultancy founded by Livia Firth and Alessandro in cinema production – with the dream of farm life.  The brothers even put pen to paper to dream up a business plan.

“We’re thinking, once our careers are finished, we’re going to do that,” recalls Nicola, “and then suddenly the farm next to my parents comes up for sale, and we were like, “Oh, my God. This must be a sign.” 

“We’re not going back to the land. We are going forward to something that we love, to something that belongs to our passion, and to a life that, to be honest, is much more interesting.”

How a dream became a working farm

The brothers purchased the parcel – an abandoned and uncultivated farm and began to focus on traditional farming, eschewing tech innovations and automatons in favour of yesteryear techniques like growing from seed and handpicking. Biodiversity, organic farming and forgotten seed collection became the foundations to a project they called Quinto Sapore, a name left over from Alessandro’s film days, which the brothers felt encapsulates what they do “something that is made with love, with care, cura…with patience, time.”

Agriconcura is farming with care

Agriconcura means farming with care, from how you farm to who you are farming with. And it’s the brothers’ favourite word for what they do. In fact, Quinto Sapore details agriconcura in an … Manifesto whose touch point are self-production of seeds, rediscovery and development of biodiversity, exclusively seasonal products, production according to organic methods, fostering a circular economy and most importantly, work equity.

It boils down to one thing “dignity”, as Alessandro tells us. Quinto Sapore brings dignity to farming but more importantly puts dignity on the table with full transparency. Ask them why red spinach is costly, and they will invite you to spend an hour handpicking and ask you the value of your time. Ask them about topinamor (Jerusalem artichoke) and Alessandro will show you delicate the shoots vegetable that takes hours to cultivate for a very small volume.    

Red Spinach and Topinamor.

The Quinto Sapore Philosophy

Quinto Sapore wants to share what they do with you, and they want to promote dignity in farming, for the people who work the farm and for those who are eating the food with a fully traceable farm-to-table model from how the plants are cultivated, how the workers are treated and how you should be treating and feeding yourself.

Farm, philosophy, a way of life. Alessandro’s logs in hours, days, weeks and months conversing with and learning from local farmers – talking about manual farming techniques, abandoned plants and vegetables, as well as experimenting.. The brothers continue to collect seeds, this time with more earnest intent as they actively research old, lost or forgotten species to add to their ongoing collection with the objective of growing and bringing back these fruits and vegetables. They seek out the wild, the unloved, the forgotten, the kind of flowers and plants the no one thinks they can eat. . . you know the story, the kind of foraged fruit and veggies that nonni would bring home.   Today, Quinto Sapore has 55 different species of tomato, 10 different species of aubergine, 25 kinds of peppers, 15 of courgettes types, 25 different kinds of strawberries from white to black to green to red and 100 species of ancient fruit trees.    

“We’ve got transparent apples. We’ve got striped figs.We’ve got miniaturized purple kiwis. We’ve got apples that are red inside. We’ve got a special pear that you only eat with a spoon because it’s like honey inside, details Alessandro, “ also sort of weird things like tiny radishes that don’t grow anymore,” Nicola adds, “155 different kinds of chilis that nobody has…”. 

Farm life is a waiting game, especially at Quinto Sapore where everything is done by hand-  from seeding to cultivating to harvest.  It’s mindfulness where you patiently observe a life span from the very beginning. Tomatoes take  three days to seed while aubergines and peppers from 20 to 25 days just to see a little green. The waiting is part of the payload for the Giuggioli brothers, who view success not quantitative but qualitatively.  

“The most important thing in what we do is patience. Be patient. There is a time, and it’s not the time of the modernity. It’s the time of nature, which is slow. That’s it.”

Pop Up to Brick and Mortar to E-Commerce

Original market pop ups, and then brick and mortar shop, Quinto Sapore has ventured into e-commerce, a lot in part thanks to the pandemic. In 2020, they began shipping a fruit and produce box around a lockdown Italy to family and friends, and then more. The produce box becomes “tools for education”, in which Quinto Sapore shared amazing and unexpected vegetables, as well as how to prepare them with instructional leaflet and videos. They built a community.

In addition to fresh produce, Quinto Sapore produces and sells organic extra virgin olive olive as well as a Malmaturo wine, reprising a local, oft unloved and ignored grape, a perfect peculiarity for Alessandro who went down the research rabbit whole and traced malmaturo all the way back to Umbria’s Etruscan history. Quinto Sapore also bragging rights to L’Aglione del Re, a heritage and gargantuan garlic often confused with elephant garlic. Thanks to its lack of allicin, it’s known as the Kiss garlic.

~ By Erica Firpo.

Quinto Sapore and ISSIMO

With ISSIMO, the Giuggoli brothers personalised the Quinto Sapore Soup Box of four soups, of which three were exclusively handpicked and created for ISSIMO: Ribollita, Crema di Patate and Zuppa di Topinamor (Jerusalem artichoke), while the Vellutata di Zucca is a Quinto Sapore staple. A taste of the soups is a taste into the Quinto Sapore philosophy – dignity and patience.

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