On the night of 29 October 2018, winds travelling at 200 km per hour (124 miles an hour) hit northern Italy. Codenamed Storm Vaia, it was the largest single windstorm event in recorded history to hit Italy.
The emergency services were on high alert that night, as call after call came in from panicked residents, talking of blackouts and fallen trees, of roofs blown off.
But nothing prepared them for what the cold light of day revealed, after the storm had passed.
Some of Europe’s most beautiful and productive forests can be found in the mountainous Dolomite region of Italy. But Storm Vaia uprooted the trees like they were sticks, sending waves of them crashing down the mountainsides. When photographers made their way to the region to make a reckoning of the damage, it was beyond their worst imaginings. Lush forest had been turned into a moonscape.
The storm destroyed 42,500 hectares (105,000 acres) of forest in the Dolomites alone—the equivalent to 70,000 soccer fields. In Veneto, more than 12,000 hectares (29,6000 acres) were affected. Forest animals have lost their homes and moved elsewhere. The Comelico Dam near Austria was choked with the descendants of trees that had once built Venetian palaces.
A total of 8.6 million cubic meters of trees were wiped out – a number so vast, it will be more than a century before they return. A real disaster.
“After Storm Vaia, our land is no longer the same,” says Leandro Grones, the Mayor of Livinallongo, a commune in the heart of the Dolomites in Veneto. “The destruction of the plants has changed the morphology of our valley, making it very weak, especially in inclement weather.”
There was worse to come. Heavy snow from winter 2020 caused the remaining, but weakened trees in the forest around the famous Dolomites village of Arabba, to collapse. The fitness trails and paths where people went foraging for blueberries and mushrooms vanished.
Reka Haros and her husband Pier Sfriso, co-owners of Sfriso Winery and Best of Veneto in Italy, were shocked by the devastation.
“We have family in the Dolomites,” says Pier. “The destruction of the forest that’s taken place in the past several years has broken our hearts, and I knew we had to do something.”
Food with a mission
Reka and Pier created The Kindness Box as a charity food box to help restore the lost tracking trails in Arabba. Every cent from every sale of a Kindness Box will go to Arabba, not a percentage of the proceeds. All of it.
Each Kindness Box is full of food hand-made by artisans who are immersed in the region’s food traditions. The box will include Fettucine ai Funghi Menazza by the historic and iconic Pastificio Menazza in Belluno; Sugo ai Funghi Porcini from Tradizioni Dolomitiche; Renaz Vecchio cow cheese from Latteria Livinallongo made from the milk of local cows that graze freely in the mountains surrounding Arabba; and Radicchio in sweet and sour by Rosa Alpina, along with Figulì crackers. It’s an aperitivo and primo piatto worth of food.
The food is sourced by Reka and Pier, who only work with top artisans in the region. The Kindness Box has been specially curated with top local products to give an original flavor experience of the Venetian Dolomites. This isn’t just high-quality food—it’s a taste of Veneto and more specifically an authentic taste of the Dolomites.
The forests belong to everyone, not just the people who live there. And climate change is putting it in danger together with the animals that belong to the forest. The more Kindness Boxes people buy, the more we can do to help the forest return to its former glory. The charity project will run until the end of September, and the boxes will ship in November, just in time for the end of the year festivities.
It is a perfect end-of-year gift because kindness is a language everyone understands. The aim is to pre-sell at least 500 boxes by the end of September. The price of the box is €75 plus shipping. You get authentic Italian mountain flavors to share at your table while being kind to our environment.
The Kindness Box will be an annual Best of Veneto project, with the proceeds going to a different cause each year.
But this year, the proceeds are going to the forests.
For more information about the Kindness Box and how you can support this charity project, please visit https://www.bestofveneto.com/product/the-kindness-box/
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