“Hi, can we talk about Basilicata Alpaca for a blog post?”
“Sure, you can call me now if you have time. Before or immediately after lunch as this afternoon I will be busy with some University students”.
The farm is at the bottom of the plateu where Acerenza is perched, near the artificial lake, in a peaceful and beautiful spot of Basilicata. Canio lives here with is family and 10 years ago he could not imagine how his life would have changed after an Internet search for “something cute”.
I had the pleasure to talk to Canio and to ask him more about this project.
As Alpacas are not exactly a familiar breed in Italy, my first question is how did you come out with the idea of starting breeding these animals?
Well, at the beginning I didn’t want to start breeding them. One day I was searching the internet “animals like teddy bears” and I stumbled upon Alpacas. I started reading about them and wanted to have one as they were so cute. I also checked if I could buy them, if they could live in Basilicata, my region, and once I understood it was possible, I decided to buy the first three, but just for me.
Yes. Alpaca suffers from loneliness, so you need at least two. But two males fight for the territory, while a male and a female…well, the male ends up chasing the poor female. So you either take two females or two castrated males. I bought a male and two females.
And where did they come from?
Peru. I bought them from a Peruvian farmer.
How much did you spend?
Each Alpaca cost 6 thousand euros. I bought three of them. Then I had to add the customs costs. So I spent a total of 20 thousand euros. I already had the space to host them, so that was not a big deal.
What happened next?
I started thinking what could I do to help my region, in order to give value to the territory. So, I learnt how to breed Alpacas, organized a pic-nic area for visitors and opened a Facebook page to inform people that they could visit my farm.
Now I have 15 Alpacas and visitors every day!
How did the people of Acerenza reacted?
Some of them were happy and supported me since the very beginning. Others were suspicious.
It was funny at the beginning to receive the visit of the Forest Service in order to check the Alpacas’ wellbeing, as this is what the Italian law requests. They use to come for the Alpacas, but sooner they started coming back to spend some time with the Alpacas! They wanted to take pics with them and that was so funny.
My Alpacas won over them!
And your family?
The same. At the beginning they did not understand what I was doing. But once they saw the Alpacas they couldn’t resist. I told you. The Alpacas make the magic.
Did you have any financial help?
No, I used the money I collected while I was in the Army. I started the military career when I was 18 and spent a total of four years. But then I decided to leave and do something different.
That now includes the Alpacas, a pic nic area and?
A shop in Acerenza, where you can buy souvenirs like t-shirts or small objects and clothes made with the Alpacas wool. I also have e-bikes to rent for a ride around the lake.
So now visitors can book a visit, which costs 10 euros per person?
Yes, via Facebook. First they come here. There is a free parking space just outside the farm. We offer them a coffee and then we bring them in the fenced area with the animals.
I tell them my story, how to hold an Alpaca and we talk about how they live and how is their wool processed and used to make clothes.
And you can hug them! That was the best part of my experience.
Yes, Alpacas are extremely quiet, in fact children are very welcomed here. We only have to pay attention in case a female is pregnant.
Alpacas and the birth control test
Well, if an Alpaca female is pregnant, and she can understand it right after the “encounter”, if you place the male next to her, she turns and spit at him which is not nice for the poor male but for me it’s fantastic because I do not have to spend money for ultradsound!
Canio is extremely patient and full of attentions for visitors. You might think an hour is a limited time, but somehow when I was there the time stopped running. I don’t know if it was a sort of therapy.
I came here last August and I recommend anyone to stop here after a visit of the surroundings. Just remember to book the visit in advance as the places are limited in order to protect the animals and maintain the quiet spirit of this area.
I had a last question for Canio.
A night night with the moon, the lake and…
So, what are your projects for the future?
Maybe building a couple of bungalow and a jacuzzi so that people can stay one or two nights. I do not aim at building a resort but something where you can come just for a day or even few hours, take your time to stop and relax and then continue discovering Basilicata.
Canio is the sum of everything I have always found in the people of this region: semplicity, humility, attachment to their roots (which are also mine) as well as resilience and willingness to work hard. Alpacas perfectly match these traits. Even if I didn’t really see them working!
But what if all they have to do is just stay there?
They wander with those slender legs from spot to spot and let themselves cuddle. They seem to communicate and transfer peace just by being near you.
We need more Alpacas in our lives. And we also need more people with crazy ideas.