By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: On our upcoming trip to Italy this spring, weíll be spending a day in Florence but would like to stay on a farm hopefully in the countryside somewhere around there. If you know of a place where they are doing some interesting work on gardens, we would like to visit it. We really enjoy reading your column and welcome any advice you might have.

A: Isabella and Livio Dalla Ragione have been planting ancient trees in San Lorenzo di Lerchi Umbria for years. Isabella, a 47-year-old agronomist in Perugia has made a fine art of what she calls archeologia arborea as she calls her vocation. Itís the search and cultivation of old varieties of fruit. Where does she get her clues? From old paintings by the Great Masters among other detective work, she was able to piece together details on an old pear tree.

These fruit trees can live for more than 250 years while the olive trees can even live longer. If you visit the Dalla Ragioneís orchard, youíll see itís an open-air museum of Old World fruit. Started 40 years ago by Livio, Isabellaís father, the trees grow on a hilltop in San Lorenzo di Lerchi, a hamlet about 70 miles southeast of Florence.

Over 400 trees make up the collection of pears, apples, plums, quinces, medlars, cherries and peaches. Isabella says most were common in the Umbria region 60 years ago but today many of the varieties have disappeared.

The Dalla Ragiones donít sell fruit but they do sell saplings grafted from trees in the collection. Isabella charges 13 to 15 euros per sapling. You can visit the orchard by appointment April through October.

The Dalla Ragioneís have a charming medieval guesthouse available at reasonable rates. Called La Casina Degli Sposi, or "The Little House of Marriage" the two floor guesthouse has a kitchen, one bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor and two bedrooms and one bathroom on the first floor. Weekly rental prices from April through May and from September through October are Ä450.

In summer weekly rentals are Ä550. Sample the organic products from the garden and orchard or purchase their wine.

For more details on the rental and for guesthouse reservations email and for directions, log onto


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