Paolo, Gianluca and I, gold nugget seekers (part 1)

by Enzo Coccia

At the beginning of February, Paolo Ruggiero, my friend and San Marzano tomato supplier for about ten years, phoned me. Together with his family and all the Danicoopcooperative farmers, we have tried to protect, popularize and promote the authentic San Marzano tomato, a gift from Campania and agro nocerino sarnese.

Excited like a child, he told me that he had received a phone call from two Cilento’s guys who wanted to meet him so as to talk about some local tomato seeds. I remember that Paolo asked me if the following Monday, on February 12th, we could arrange the meeting with the agronomist Gianluca Iovine also. I immediately accepted; the idea of this new tomato much aroused my curiosity.

The town is called Rofrano. I must confess it, I have never heard about it! So, I searched on Wikipedia and I found that it is a small village in the province of Salerno of 1500 inhabitants, at 500 metres above sea level in the heart of Vallo di Diano and Alburni.

Cilento National Park is a Unesco World Heritage site, a biosphere reserve. The Mediterranean diet was born there: a true immaculate paradise. Alas! I realized that I have limited knowledge of that territory: like many people I only know Cilento’s most famous places (Paestum, Santa Maria di Castellabate, Marina di Pisciotta, Padula charterhouse, Pioppi).

I remember that Monday very well, a day when the good Lord made us re-experience the universal flood. A terrifying stormy and windy day; we sat in car for hours with a continuous rain and a reduced view of the road. Our trip to Rofrano was associated with anxiety and the fear of having to stop for a car breakdown or a ditch through the surrounding fields.

Finally, we arrived and, after several phone calls, the guys joined us downtown. We stopped in a small bar to refresh ourselves with a coffee and a hot tea. Giovanni Cavallo and Giovanni Speranza, two young farmers, explained that the previous year they had planted Rofrano tomato seeds, a product that had disappeared from that town, and that the crop had been scarce. They made us see and taste some tomatoes from the previous year. The plan was to stay in touch, waiting for summer and the next harvest …