One must have rosé alfresco. One needs a pergola with wisteria, some shadow and fresh, breezy air even though it’s August around the 15th, the hottest week of the warm tuscan summer, when a motionless, stiff, round heat takes, literally, your breath away.
But that caldissimo is nothing, really, if one can have 'bruscietta' with vergin cold-pressed olive oil, whatever the heck that means, garlic and nibbles, followed by two hundred fags that in Italy cost as little as three pounds per pack, innit. Let me tell you: there is not such a spectacular view down in Tuscany as a bunch of britons enjoying all the sun they have been previously neglected in their fabolous yet sun-muffled Country: it's a fest, it's Romeo meets Juliette Lewis and they get drunk together under the tuscan sun which, by the way, was shot almost completely in Umbria. In the business department of my memory there are two perfect moments I recall to my own amusement when things get difficult, when the seasonal crowd invades “my” villas and we are responsible for their safety, satisfaction and activities: the first would be the head-to-toe white dressed americans coming down from these gigantic, elegant ships for their half day excursions. The second one would be instead the english families avoiding the tour of the property to, literally, throw themselves under the veranda - with rosè wine and cold beers we precedently supplied and stored in the cold fridge, of course, together with proper, large, tasting glasses and ice.
My love for the inglesi comes a long way. As a fortunate child I was sent to Oxford to learn some English, together with a group of spotty pre-teenagers whose only interest was going to the disco and eating those infamous MacDonald cheese burgers. Me: no. I wanted to be kidnapped. I wanted to remain in one of those colleges where everybody wears elegant crested jumpers, those schools we only had a chance to see in movies dubbed by some hypothyroid person performing all the voices while locked in a barrel.
"Emma, Bruno, it's time for you guys to sell those (awful) golden bracelets from your beloved daughter’s holy communion and pay a substantial ransom if you want to get her back. Please know she's going to college in the meantime, she’s eating eggs and sausage anytime she can and she’s catching on that outstanding british accent, the one when you do not move your jaw”. That has never happened anway, I mean, there’s no way I can sound anything else than somebody from Brooklyn with peruvian parents.
I have been back, many times, since that very elegant english summer. I have worked as a webdesigner, press office junior dummie and marketing too-quarky-to-be-succesful consultant, punctually failing my objectives: I have never resisted in London for more than four months in a row and the prospect to be here in the summer would throw my will to work and live like a honest english citizen down in the rabbit hole. Thing is after a while one misses Tuscany so much it hurts. This one here, in particular, misses those sweet hills where nothing weird happens, where one gets to hold a glass of outstanding wine for few euros while kids run, free, in the sun, at the level of excruciating. Please note: it's not a matter of getting tanned or eating alfresco. It's more I do not own an umbrella. It rains so badly in Tuscany, when it rains, that I just can't be bothered: I stay home.
So. Sun, Brits and Tuscany, we were saying. Back in the day my sister Alex initiated me to the cult of the Vellano, a religion that stuck with me forever since then, worse than my friends in Amway. Vellano is a small hamlet close to Lucca with few hundreds of inhabitants, where she had done this music gig, in this very extraordinary jazzy, sexy place called La Locanda, run by Rachel the canadian jazz lover and her husband Michele, the southern God of orecchiette alla salsiccia and broccoli. I eventually get there a year after, remain for the week-end in the Locanda and abandon my first company, an IT consulting cooperative, to stay. I walk away, simply: I now know I need a career involved with a place like this. There, in Magical Vellano, I discover a mixed community of local villagers, with roots in the hamlet history that go back hundreds of years, and fabolous expats: writers, producers, professors, adepts of la vita rustica, buyers of second houses and some fellow drinkers I have a fond respect of.
It was love at first, second and third sight. In fact, I count my years as b.V. and a.V.: before Vellano and after Vellano. I have discovered that it’s possible to live in your own Country with the same enthusiasm of an expat if only you concentrate on quality, food and the fact that the amount of time we are given in this life, at least for this round, is indeed limited. I have become accustomed to the routine of one glass of wine to close the day and I am now a big fan of reading magazines on a Sunday afternoon in the local restaurant, The Bistrot, for the entire afternoon, while sipping wine or peppermint tea. I now walk everywhere and rarely take the car, so I have learnt I too can spot that fabolous place where they sell cheese and dried tomatoes for cents.
Every year my family and I spend one entire month here in Vellano: we work from here, do appointments in Edinburgh and come back, all in the same day, using the airport of Pisa which is less than an hour away. We leave our shoes at the door on early August and get them back one month after: there’s no need to wear any sandals, infact, if you walk on grass and ancient stones. We go back to the Kingdom when school starts and I am down again close to guests every Spring and Summer to control that everything’s nothing less than fabolous: holiday is about unconscious hope for happiness and childhood promises we allow to come back to our minds, it should never be spoilt by bad houses mismanaged by so-called brokers.
I owe to english people - and to a series of very luck events - my adoration for my job which is today absolutely related to that world I want to be part of: we spot nice villas, contract reliable suppliers for their maintainment and hire territory experts, so that when guests arrive they have a full consultant at their service and they get to do what we all love to do: see a place with insight recommendations, avoid touristic places and get great meals. We get these three things together for our clients who are not the guests themselves but some great fishes who play the business-to-consumer game out there in the world market of villa holidays. We do a lot more than this, but I guess it is good to make things simple when possible.
This monthly article I am writing for Wall Street International is about things that happen when your job is somebody’s else holiday, spectacular places and great properties I am lucky enough to manage with my collegues. It also has a lot to do with the daily challenge of trying to convince plumbers and electricians to come at the villa on any sunday summer morning, if something has exploded or water pression has disappeared, as a proof that Murphy’s Law exists and rules the universe of hydraulic engineering.
One needs to be able to read between the lines and get in the head of those who can rise a glass of wine as it was the Holy Graal, if they want to work in the holiday business and want to feel as lucky travellers in their own Country. Personally, there’s nothing that make me and my collegues happier than seeing those english and americans coming back every summer, with the same sparkle of love in their eyes: our job is at the very least to return it.