The "Bees in the city" project

I mieli prodotti nel Boschetto dell'Orto Botanico (foto D. Bouvet)


Birth of an idea
Think how nice it would be to raise bees in the center of Turin.
The idea of ​​an apiary at Valentino was born just like this, with a proposal, which is almost a soliloquy, whispered two years ago in the cockpit of a car that goes down the bends of the Valgrisanche, between exuberant blooms of epilobium and the oblique light of a setting sun. That sentence, uttered almost casually by Lorenzo Domenis, a veterinarian, bounces in the heart of Marco Cucco, a gardener, who, although intent on driving on a difficult mountain road, manages to raise the stakes with the strength of a project by now decided: "But this it is a fantastic idea!".

From there, a path develops, perhaps common to many creative initiatives, characterized by a long series of doubts and reflections, which however, in this case, are articulated by strange and imaginative requests bordering on the funny, of the type "nomadic beehives or sedentary? ", "Bolognese or native queen bees?", "box or pitched roofs?", "but is horse chestnut more nectar from acacia?" and so on. Those questions have had many and varied answers and fortunately also the last, important question, namely whether the Municipality and the University of Turin, responsible for the Botanical Garden, could like a similar proposal, was satisfied, receiving a welcome positive along with enthusiastic blessings.

So we moved from words to deeds and over there, in the ancient Boschetto, founded in 1830, between a dogwood (Cornus mas) and a Caucasian walnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia), now live and proliferate 5 families of bees, in boxes made of wood that we liked to call with the names of the women that animate our lives: Casa Raffaella and Casa Cecilia, Casa Laura and Casa Elisabetta, and finally, the latest arrival, Casa Sibilla.
Finally the bees fly to the city!


Why an apiary in Turin
There is no single why. Or better: for a similar one because there is no univocal temporal collocation, if it is true that the reasons for our initiative unfold between past, present and future. So let's describe them like this, respecting the immutable course of history ...


The reason for the past: there are numerous testimonies regarding the presence of apiaries in Piedmontese castles, including Racconigi, Venaria, Aglié, and just as abundant are the contributions that our city has made in the last century to the world of beekeeping. Among these we remember the passionate commitment of Don Giacomo Angeleri (1877-1957), author of the book "Fifty years with bees and beekeepers"; the opening, in 1928, of "La Casa del Buon Miele" in Giulio Cesare 99, which is the first Italian shop for the sale of honey and its derivatives; the foundation, in 1969, of the Reaglie Beekeeping Observatory; the publication, from 1909 to 1997, of "L'Apicoltore Moderno", an entirely Turin-based magazine dedicated to the sector, wanted and created by Prof. C. Vidano.


The reason for the present: on newspapers and websites there is a multiplication of news regarding experiences, conducted with surprising and encouraging success, of urban beekeeping: that is, hives located in large metropolitan contexts, such as Paris, Brussels and New York, which, although more complex and articulated of ours, offer the opportunity to collect - incredible but true! - a high quality honey, characterized by exclusive organoleptic properties and an incredible pollen variety.

The adventure of the Frenchman Olivier Darné is exemplary, a courageous urban beekeeper who, thanks to his hives, initially located on the town hall of Saint Denis and then in the heart of the largest French cities, produces a honey, famous as "miel béton", awarded in numerous competitions sector in the transalpine country. And therefore on the modern notes of the most avant-garde trends and current events that setting up an apiary in one of the most emblematic arches of Turin (in turn the subject of a recent naturalistic revaluation) also means relaunching an activity, apiculture precisely, now confined only, and unfairly, in rural environments.


The reason for the future: it will be a beekeeping experiment of racial integration, right next to a composite and variegated neighborhood like S. Salvario, where, thanks to the ferocious cosmopolitan mix of botanical and
imported floral species (certainly present on veroni, windowsills, dormers, sloping ceilings, crevices and interstices of the colorful and exotic district), the polychromy of the multiethnic arboreal-gustatory composition will eventually triumph over the gray and monotonous city custom.

The project still intends to enhance the value of other nice initiatives recently launched under the banner of urban agriculture, such as the management of herds and flocks in city parks or the dissemination of innovative practices such as the installation of vertical gardens in apartments and balconies.

At the same time, the project will be declined under a didactic profile, as an agro-zootechnical training opportunity for students and teachers of Turin schools, to whom it is expected to offer the possibility of experimenting the techniques of breeding bees and related productions (honey, propolis , royal jelly, wax and poison) in the very heart of their metropolis.


"With the keen hope of unleashing so many workers in the city of the glorious Fiat, we offer distinguished and imaginative greetings".
These were the words with which we closed the presentation of the project to the Municipality of Turin.
Even now they seem the best to say goodbye to you.

Marco Cucco and Lorenzo Domenis