Back to nature in the hills just south of Bologna, with an eco-project steadily gaining ground, and acclaim, three years after its inception. Cà Shin is the brainchild of non-profit social cooperative Le Ali, founded by Bolognese architect Francesca Lenzi some 6 years ago. On board Le Ali, a slew of professionals in diverse fields, all intent on creating an opportunity to connect with the natural world, observe the rhythms of the seasons in the wild and in agriculture, and apply technology and innovation to environmental protection. Villa Silvetta was the original name of the farmhouse (cascina, hence Cà Shin) on a vast estate purchased by the city authorites back in the ’60s and known as Parco Cavaioni, a place of arcadian beauty sadly ill-maintained. Its rehabilitation was entrusted to Le Ali in 2009 on the basis of their plan to create an eco-house, a showcase of sustainable renovation where the good citizens of Bologna and their children – with the accent on the children – could revel in the joys of nature, share green values and join in various cultural events.
Cà Shin has a gorgeously rustic eatery, seating up to 80 including the dehors, where organic lunches, dinners, snacks and all you need for a picnic in the park are prepared by Angela. Much of the traditional fare is home-grown as well as home-made. The kitchen garden is perhaps the true focal point of the project, physically and symbolically: a kind of theatre where people, art and nature come together. But this is not just a place to eat. Concerts, theatrical performances, workshops and courses, exhibitions and meetings take place in the ample volume of the barn or in one of a couple of smaller spaces. There’s a cosy library in a kind of cottage and a kids’ playroom. And then the acres of woods and clearings for kids and adults to explore, for seasonal camps, for outdoor art, and for some serious hiking if that’s your thing. Cà Shin is only 10 minutes outside Bologna, a few stops on a city bus. And it’s not reserved for the good people of that fine city. It’s generally open every day for food, and the website – though only in Italian – will tell you what else is going on there week by week.