The property “Cascina Veneria” is situated in Lignana, a small village near Vercelli in eastern Piedmont. The Veneria estate, which is the largest single rice plantation in Europe, lies in the wide fertile Po Valley at the foot of Monte Rosa. Although the property extends for more than 700 hectares of rice fields (an area once called “Silva salsa”), only 550 are actually cultivated each year. This crop rotation method guarantees the highest quality of the rice varieties, which range from Carnaroli and Vialone Nano to Balilla and Baldo.
Rice cultivation in Piedmont
The territory surrounding Cascina Veneria has great relevance for the rice sector in general. In fact the 30-km stretch extending from Vercelli to Crescentino, known in Italian as the Strada delle Grange, is officially recognized as the first and only “rice road” for high-quality Vercelli rice; it is also a beckoning landscape of paddy fields, rivers, protected park lands, traditional farms and granges, museums, historical buildings, and restaurants serving traditional fare.
Italian rice cultivation in Vercelli and Novara
Thanks to its unique charm and special microclimate, flora, and fauna, this area is sometimes referred to as a Terre d’acqua (literally a ‘waterland’ for its abundance of water) or else a Mare a quadretti (‘patchwork sea’). Given the crucial nature of water in rice cultivation, the processes of irrigation and the management of the territory’s water are so important as to influence the success or failure of the local economy.
The water needed by the rice fields in this territory comes from the Po River. Over centuries, humanity developed the engineering capacity to deviate the flow of the biggest river of Italy into smaller artificial canals, the most important of which is the 85-km long Cavour Canal, completed in 1866. Still today, this network guarantees constant, proper irrigation of the rice fields.