Most people associate the French Riviera with wealth, sunny blue skies and the Mediterranean sea. But not so far from the pebble beaches and luxury hotels there exists another form of life more down to earth and little to do with the glitz and glamour of the region.
It's a world apart that has existed for centuries in the hillsides of Biot, a medieval village, which in ancient times was once a major center fabricating pottery jars, and today is renowned for its creative bubble glassware.
The name Biot originates from Italian. “It means two times eight,” said 67 year-old Mr Gavino Pellegrino, whose ancestors came from Italy. His parents and grandparents were farmers. They owned land stretching over a few hectares. Much of the land has been sold, but on one particular corner of land Mr Pellegrino has preserved especially to cultivate his vegetables such as tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, as well as strawberries. It's a pastime which Mr Pellegrino enjoys doing for pleasure, but on Saturday and Sunday mornings, you can find him in Old Antibes where he sells his produce in the marketplace.
Despite it being a drought season this summer, Mr Pellegrino remains unperturbed by the lack of rainfall, simply for reason the Alpes-Martimes has the good fortune of being naturally supplied with underground water, which lies hundreds of metres beneath the volcanic layers of rock. But what is even more auspicious is that Mr Pellegrino himself was born with a gift to detect underground water sources by just using two olive tree branches.
He said, “The branches have to be fresh. If there is water in the ground, they move upwards towards the chest . If there is no water the branches stay in the same position. It's all due to the magnetic field underground.”
Mr Pellegrino is the 5th of ten children. His wife Isabel said that her husband was one of very few people in the region who today took the time to grow plants and vegetables. He is using organic seeds to grow the vegetables and is using manure from the nearby horseback riding club in his hotbeds.
The hillsides which were once covered in olive trees and flowers have now been replaced by apartments, villas and office buildings. Do the Pellegrino's have regrets? “No”, answers Madame Pellegrino spontaneously, “the tourism created an international climate and out of it we now have Sophia Antipolis were our children are working.” Sophia Antipolis is a High-Tech Park where 25.000 people are working in research and financial service companies. Some faculties from Nice University moved also to Sophia Antipolis. It is a coexistence of various ways of life.
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