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The Vercellese of "Bitter Rice"

In the triangle of rice fields, on the sites of a classic of neorealism

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Where is


Tenuta Colombara, 2, 13046 Livorno Ferraris VC, Italia (161m s.l.m.)


What it is and where it is

The triangle of rice fields is the territory between the provinces of Novara, Vercelli and Pavia, straddling Piedmont and Lombardy, where rice cultivation, started in the 15th century, is still practiced at record levels. Linked to this activity is the epic of the 'mondine,' the seasonal workers who wrote an important page in the history of women's emancipation. The horizon of the rice fields and the strong profile of these women are the prerequisites for the extraordinary success of a period film, "Bitter Rice."

Why it is special

Tradition points to St. Joseph's Day, which falls on March 19, as the calendar reference to kick off theflooding of the rice fields. It so happens that the desolate winter expanses acquire a new liquid reality, in which it is hard to tell where the horizon meets the sky, with clouds and sunset splitting apart. Then, as the weeks pass, the environment comes alive with the flights of herons and other waterfowl. A real boon for those who love landscape photography....

Not to be missed

Having seen the movie "Bitter Rice," a trip to the Vercelli area takes on a meaning that transcends the pure beauty of the landscape. A stop in Livorno Ferraris to visit Colombara, one of the large courtyard farmsteads that dot the rice paddy district, then becomes a must. Still in operation today, it is also home to the "Conservatory of Rice-growing," a sui generis museum where the environments of the time have been faithfully reconstructed, from the dormitory of the mondine to the small school intended for the resident farming community.

A bit of history

"Riso amaro," a 1949 film, has as its main thread an ambiguous plot of feelings set among the mondine, the seasonal workers of the Vercelli rice fields: "story from a photostory, torrid eroticism, sociological fresco, high prestige directorial writing," these are the ingredients of an extraordinary success, as Morandini writes. Absolute protagonist, Silvana Mangano, whose future as a diva is hinted at. Privileged locations, the Veneria farmhouse, in Lignana, and the Selve farmhouse, in Salasco.


The Vercellese is the realm of herons, wading birds with sharp beaks and linear flight, which soon get the eye. But there is also an intruder, splendid and mysterious: beak curved downward, black and white plumage, light flight, it is the sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus), of usually exotic habitat, so much so as to be represented in Egyptian hieroglyphics, but recently acquired, it is not quite clear how, to the winged fauna of the Po Valley.

Bitter Rice - Trailer

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Recommended by
Francesco Soletti

On the liquid horizon of these places the characters of a masterpiece of Neorealism come to life again.


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