6 reasons why Italy is starting to feel like home
You know the expression - 'it takes a village to raise a child'? Well, this is how we are being raised by our village - the people of Montepulciano….
Here are 6 people or groups (and reasons) who have made Italy feel like home.
G is, for lack of a better word in English, our foreman at the vineyard. Our relationship with G started on a somewhat awkward footing as a result of history that did not involve us. G is tall and has the build and temperament of a true farmer. He is passionate about what he does and, when teased about how long he was going on his honeymoon, was eager to let it be known that he would only be gone for a week, he was needed by the grapes and olives and they had to come first!
G's family lives on the farm next door so there is always a wave hello, a smile or a chat to be had when we approach or leave the agriturismo. We are lucky to have them as neighbours and even luckier that they help us tend to the vineyard.
We have a great small-knit group of friends from Italy, Ireland, England, Sweden, the States, France and South Africa here in small little Montepulciano. To say we were surprised at the diversity would be an understatement - like us, our friends made a decision to change their lives, do something different (in most cases) and make Italy their home. There is of course comfort in knowing that you have someone else to share 'expat stories' or (mis)adventures of the day. However, more than that, it is great to know that we aren't the only crazy ones! :) Insanity loves company.
These are the people we meet pretty much every week. From Ms C, our fruit and veggie vendor at the weekly market, to Mr A and Ms R our Italian language teachers, to Ms S and Mr R, the owners of our favourite casual restaurant in Montepulciano, these are the people who have helped make Montepulciano our home. They've basically seen us in all our moods - happy, tired, stressed, unhappy, emotional, excited, ecstatic - and never judged.
There is a collection of winemakers and wine enthusiasts that we have gotten to know, in the area, during our time here.
From the brothers who came here from the North, and make a world-class wine but are the most humble people we know, to the big producers who make more than 200,000 bottles a year and have flashy wineries to boot, to the somewhere in-betweeners who have gone all green or are paying homage to a craft that started with their forefathers, there is a real range of different modes, different styles and different attitudes to wine-making. It takes several people, with different skill-sets and different levels of experience to make the bottle that ultimately finds its way to the dinner table. Our appreciation for this amazing art has grown tenfold since our move and our entry into this industry. We are only at the start of the journey.
One of the best pieces of advice we received early on was that we needed a squadra (team) to develop our business(es) at Poggio Golo. It seems obvious but the issue in our village is where to find them? No, seriously, where? That advice came from our amazing enologist. In truth he was the first member of the Squadra. Hugely knowledgeable and humble (not once has he mentioned that he is a Cavaliere della Republica – a Knight of the Italian Republic) and incredibly generous with his time. How many people have had a knight help them wash, stack, roll and lift barrels?
We have had a succession of people help us manage our agriturismo. As Paari once read, people come into your life for a reason, a purpose or a period. If only we had been so zen at the time when some of those people left our life, decided their purpose was done (even if it wasn’t!) or for no reason! Om….
Now our little squadra has grown to 4. Mr. G, Mr. T , Mr. E and Ms. I. We are following our friend, Anthony’s, advice – always hire people better at something than you are. And we are lucky to have found really nice, decent, good people along the way.
This group includes those who help 'get things done'. From the guy who delivers the clean biancheria (linen) at the agriturismo, to the guy who delivers the gasolio to make sure we can have the heating on, to the private chefs who help us make Poggio Golo a great product, without them we wouldn’t exactly be lost but we would be going around in circles a lot (more than we do now!). The interactions, however small or big, have helped us create solid relationships and understand Italian culture (which, like any other, has an unbelievable number of nuances) in a way that no book ever could.
..and then there's Us
The Us includes the two of us and Max and Milo. Our little foursome has gone through a lot over the last 3 years. It started with the long and tiring journey that lasted close to 24 hours, to arrive in Montepulciano, back in July 2020 - which involved cars, planes and lost tempers (not at each other but at a trolley in Milan airport – Niall still maintains that the trolley started it…), but we made it.
We have been called 'crazy', 'brave', 'adventurous', 'naive', 'daring' and other words similar to these after our move to Italy. We are not sure if we are any of those - all we know is that we dreamt of changing our lives, learning something different and having fun along the way. We think we are succeeding in achieving (perhaps very slowly) all three. People say we are living the dream. Perhaps. We certainly know that we are working bloody hard to keep the dream going.
Paari & Niall