By Michele Novaga
MILAN (AA) - In Italy, u-pick flowers have now become a trend. Every spring, tulip fields multiply, especially in the area around Milan and Turin, offering visitors not only the chance to buy flowers but also the experience of picking them themselves in the open air.
It all started in 2017 when a Dutch couple, Edwin Koeman, 45, and his wife Nitsuhe Wolanios, decided to rent a few hectares of land and planted half a million tulip bulbs on it.
"We started seven years ago and we've had great success because we were the first to start the u-pick in Italy. We became known all over the country: there were a lot of TV stations and newspapers that came to report because people could cut and pick flowers by themselves,” said Edwin Koeman, who comes from a family of tulip growers.
"I used to work for a (flower) bulbs export company selling all over the world, especially in Italy. Then, I helped my brother managing a u-pick field in the US, and started to think about establishing something similar myself ... in Italy. I looked for a land close to Milan, because a lot of people live here, the climate is good. That’s how I started.”
More than 600,000 tulips of 400 different varieties have grown in his field in Arese on the western outskirts of Milan, and he proudly shows them as dozens of people take selfies while picking flowers and placing them in baskets distributed at the entrance.
Families with their dogs, groups of friends and couples are sharing joyful moments together.
"We have quite a lot of visitors each year. Last year we had more than 50,000 people and it was our record when normally we are happy with visitors between 30,000 and 50,000. They come especially at the weekend but also during the week if the weather is good," he said.
Visitors, like Aldrin Canoi, leave work early to come and pick tulips and enjoy the sun. "I've been waiting for this for a year. This field is really beautiful, especially on a sunny day like this. I don't know anything about tulips and in fact, I'm here to understand more and ask the managers many questions," he says.
"We are here to have a good experience and also spend some time together. It's a very nice initiative that allows people to take tulips home. Sometimes, humans do something nice,” his girlfriend Beatrice Carabelli added.
In just a few years, the tulip fields have grown to around 20, all following more or less the same model created by Edwin.
In Vimodrone, one of the fields in Milan’s eastern hinterland, there is a wooden reproduction of a windmill right in the middle of rows of tulips of various colors.
"The peculiarity of this field of 300,000 tulips is that the 4 hectares of bulbs have been planted in waves. Our field consists of 40 varieties with all kinds of blooms and we are counting on doubling the 30,000 recorded last year thanks to the hard work we have done to make our field even more beautiful," explains floriculturist Eleonora Uggeri, saying her company was inspired by the u-pick field of tulips introduced by Koeman.
The u-pick formula is also replicated here: the entrance fee is €7 ($7.6) during the week and €8 at weekends and three flowers are included. For each extra tulip picked, there is an extra fee allowing visitors to stay as long as they like, taking photos but also sitting on benches scattered around the grounds. And if the weather is as spring-like, as has been in recent weeks, it really becomes a pleasure.