We love receiving owners testimonials and understanding their motivation about joining the Appassionata family. Thank you Mary Harmon for this tremendous insight.
It is a quite interesting and uncanny set of events of how I came to know the properties of Appassionata in Le Marche, and subsequently purchased a share of Il Riposo.
In February 2017, I purchased a piece of art, an oil on acrylic, a contemporary heart, for my upcoming birthday gift to myself. It was entitled ” Appassionata”. I researched and found that this is an Italian musical term meaning with heart, with passion and vigor. Ok, so what does this art piece have to do with a property purchase in Le Marche? My family is still pondering that one.
For the last couple of years, I had been perusing properties for sale in the Tuscany region of Italy. My travels had taken me there a few times. I began to dream of having a small place in Italy not thinking I could really afford it, but one never knows, right? In those Tuscany visits, I had fell in love with the rolling hillsides, vineyards, wine, food and robust coffee. I also fell deeply in love with the generous spirit of the people and their love of family.
Imagine my excitement when the “Appassionata ” ad popped up on my computer screen out of the blue? While I am sure that technology tracking was the real culprit, I decided it was providence and made an impromptu decision to journey to Le Marche and check it out. In 2 weeks, I was on my way, on my adventure to Le Marche. I got off to a rocky start as my plane arrived late and it was dark when I began the drive from the Ancona Airport to Petritoli, in the last 5 speed stick Fiat for rent at the Hertz counter.
When I arrived, India, the Sales Director, was waiting for me and settled me into the most cozy and quaint medieval apartment I have ever seen. I snuggled in for a sound sleep in preparation for our tour the next day.
India and I met for fresh coffee before beginning our tour. As we drove through the countryside with almond and cherry trees in full bloom , I could barely contain my excitement. Once we reached the Patrignone village and opened the door to a visual display of beauty and love that was clearly displayed in the furnishings and detail throughout, coupled with the natural beauty of the hills, sea and mountains, I could not resist purchasing a share of Il Riposo.
I love the share ownership concept in conjunction with other families, to have access to a wonderful Italian property and share the expense of ownership. It helped that my family already owns a share of a beach home on BaldHead Island, North Carolina in the USA that we have had for many years, so I easily understood how it all works.
Owning a share of Il Riposo is the very best!”
Mary Harmon, USA
When our four children were young I frequently used the phrase sharing and caring. Share your possessions with your siblings and friends. Watch someone else experience joy and happiness from something that is dear to you. It shows you care. I’m not saying it’s easy. Try explaining that to a three year old, clutching their favourite toy. It can be quite a challenge!
Hopefully it was good advice. Our children have grown up to be thoughtful, kind and caring adults.
Appassionata was created around the same principles. We immerse ourselves into the caring Italian culture, grounded by strong family traditions. Small communities caring for each other. Old and young cared for by their own families, often sharing the same home.
Appassionata is a boutique, family business. We buy, restore, furnish and sell shares in luxury properties in Le Marche for a limited few. Ten owners share the purchase cost and all running costs of their home for five exclusive weeks each year. All the boring legal work has been done, by us. Owners can share their Italian home with family and friends and see the joy others experience from their generosity. Owners don’t have all the worries, work and stress normally associated with owning a holiday home. Appassionata does it all. They arrive, indulge and relax. Many of our owners have celebrated special occasions in their Italian home. Sharing memories and precious time together. Italy brings families together. We care about our owners and make sure everything is perfectly prepared for their next visit
Appassionata want to share this beautiful region of Italy and take care of you.
Appassionata properties are occupied throughout the entire year, and this constant flow of people helps support local businesses. Owners are given a warm welcome in the shops, bars, cafes and restaurants each time they return. Many of them become friends.
Our owners can also interact with each other, sharing their favourite restaurants, wines, beaches and designer outlets!
We currently have a few shares remaining in our fourth property, Il Riposo. An elegant three storey, four bedroom villa. Nestled within the beautiful medieval borgo of Patrignone. Ideally situated between blue flag beaches and the Sibillini mountains. There is certainly plenty to share amongst loved ones.
We invite you to come and visit us and see why we care so much about this hidden gem in Italy.
Please contact India Hobbs Mauger for more information
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone – 0039 331 5413225
Pasqua is upon us, one of those special times of year that Italian families all get together to celebrate.
While you probably won’t see the Easter bunny , this a popular holiday celebrated as only Italians do. The days leading up to Easter include solemn processions and mass, Pasqua is a joyous celebration marked with rituals and traditions. The Monday following Easter, La Pasquetta, is also a public holiday throughout Italy. Church is always full, you will definitely not find a seat, standing room only. Many churches have special statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus which are paraded through their village or displayed in the piazza. Parade participants are often dressed in traditional costumes, olive branches and palm fronds are carried during the processions and adorn the churches. At the end of the church service olive branches are given out to everyone to symbolise peace. These olive branches are kept in your house and exchanged the following easter for the new branch.
Easter Food in Italy
Easter symbolises the end of Lent, which requires sacrifice and reserve, food plays a big part in the celebrations. Traditional Easter foods across Italy may include some of these classic recipes – carciofi fritti (fried artichokes), a main course of either capretto o agnellino al forno (roasted goat or baby lamb) or capretto cacio e uova (kid stewed with cheese, peas, and eggs), and carciofi e patate soffritti, a delicious vegetable side dish of sautéed artichokes with baby potatoes. As most people are aware Italian cooking is very regional so dishes do vary. The centre of Italy – Le Marche, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Umbria will no doubt have for the first course cappelletti with ragu’. Meaning “little hats”, made with fresh egg pasta and filled with 3 different types of mixed meats generally pork, veal & chicken, the pasta is then made into the shape of little hats and served with a mixed meat or wild boar ragu’.
A holiday meal in Italy would not be complete without a traditional dessert, and during Easter there are several. Italian children finish their dinner with a rich bread shaped like a crown and studded with colored Easter egg candies. Another treat is the Colomba cake, a sweet, eggy, yeasted bread (like panettone plus candied orange peel, minus the raisins, and topped with sugared and sliced almonds) shaped in one of the most recognizable symbols of Easter, the dove. The Colomba cake takes on this form because la colomba in Italian means dove, the symbol of peace and an appropriate finish to Easter dinner.
Uova di Pasqua ‘Easter Eggs’
Although Italians do not decorate hard–boiled eggs, the biggest Easter displays can be seen in all the bars, pastry shops and supermarkets. The chocolatiers sell brightly wrapped uova di Pasqua—chocolate Easter eggs—in sizes ranging from 10 grams (1/3 ounce) to 8 kilos (nearly 18 pounds).
Some producers distinguish between their chocolate eggs for children and expensive “adult” versions. All except the tiniest eggs contain a surprise. Grown–ups often find their eggs contain little silver picture frames or gold–dipped costume jewelry. The very best eggs are handmade by artisans of chocolate, who offer the service of inserting a surprise supplied by the purchaser.
Wishing everyone a very Happy Easter.
Our weekend in Florence was over in a flash and we reluctantly flew back to London Stansted airport. Low grey cloud and drizzle welcomed us with open arms. We drove home through the gloom and heavy traffic. I was now on a mission to return as soon as possible, my heart was still in Italy…..
I spent my evenings trawling through the internet. Searching properties for sale, contacting agents and familiarising myself with the region.
Four weeks later we returned to explore the area of Tuscany. Beautiful it certainly is but something was missing. We were attracted to Italy, the culture, the lifestyle, the language. Walking around the streets we were engulfed by large groups of tourists and their coaches. We wanted more Italianness, is that an actual word!
We were not down hearted, but more determined to find our perfect place.
I am a great believer in fate. A week later Michael phoned me from work. He had just had lunch with a couple of business associates, one of whom was David Scacchetti, a co-founder and CEO of Mamas and Papas. He was married to a beautiful girl from Le Marche, in the heart of Italy, and owned a house in Civitanova Alta. Michael had talked to him about our love affair with Italy and our plans to buy a home. David made Michael promise to visit the region of Le Marche before we made a decision. I was intrigued, although I had never heard of Le Marche, David has impeccable taste, it would definitely be worth a visit.
I spent the next couple of hours researching everything I could about the region. The close proximity to both the sea and mountains was a great plus and the air quality would be amazing!
Once I have an idea in my head I’m like a dog with a bone. I wanted to get the ball rolling. By the time Michael returned home that evening I had booked our flights to Ancona. The hotel booking in Pedaso was confirmed and appointments set up with a couple of agents to view various properties.
A couple of weeks later, clutching maps and a pile of property details we flew into Ancona. We descended the plane steps and I gazed around. Airports are never the most attractive places, but I instantly liked this one. It was small and neat, even I wouldn’t get lost here. I turned to Michael, “it smells lovely here, warm and flowery” he raised his eyebrows and shook his head. To me it was obvious, places have a particular aroma, it’s one of the first things I notice when I arrive somewhere new.
We picked up the hire car and headed to the coast road. The motorway is a much quicker route, but we wanted to explore.
“This is it” I said to Michael. “This is what?” We had been on the road for about thirty minutes, but I knew. A gut instinct, that special connection, when something just feels right. Michael gave me a strange look and we continued our journey. Beautiful white sandy beaches on the left, ancient hill top towns rising up on the right. We stopped for lunch at a beachside restaurant in Civitanova. After a light lunch of fresh mussels and a glass of chilled Passerina, Michael was beginning to agree with me.
We pulled up outside Hotel Villa Ricci in the small coastal town of Pedaso. I always love to stay somewhere which represents the country I’m visiting. I avoid staying in large modern skyscraper hotels. The furnishings are modern and minimalist and often quite boring. Villa Ricci was everything I loved and more. From the moment we walked through the door. Exquisite pieces of Italian antique furniture were carefully arranged on the marble floor. Beautiful crystal chandeliers caught the light of the afternoon sun. Beyond the reception was a large door leading out into an enchanting walled garden with the scent of orange blossom.
An elegant staircase took us up to our first floor bedroom which was just as beautiful. A lovely glazed sun terrace led off the bedroom with views over the Adriatic Sea, bliss.
We unpacked quickly and changed into something a little more summery. We went for a walk, the sea was so close, I needed to be closer. I kicked off my shoes and rolled up my trousers. The water was wonderful, refreshing but not too cold. We walked along the promenade and smiled at the locals, who greeted us warmly.
That evening we had arranged to meet up with one of the agents in our hotel bar. Fabio was half English, half Italian, so language would not be a problem. We arrived early and ordered a bottle of prosecco. We chatted to the barman, in sign language and charades, as he brought over a selection of olives and cheese.
The agent arrived, he was very friendly and knew the area well. His mother’s family had lived there for generations and he seemed well connected. We discussed in more detail what we were looking for, the classic Italian farmhouse which we would loving restore over time.
We mentioned we were also meeting another agent the following morning to view properties further in land, closer to the mountains. He tried to dissuade us, but we wanted to explore everywhere.
The following day, we drove inland in search of our dream. Amandola and the surrounding villages were lovely, but a little too remote. I was going to be spending time alone here overseeing the restoration. I didn’t want to feel too isolated and become the mad English woman living in the mountains! It was important to be within walking distance of a town with shops, bars and restaurants. The coast was also an important factor and we felt it was too far away from the water. We didn’t want to be spending long periods of time in the summer driving backwards and forwards to the beach.
The next day we met up with Fabio again to view properties closer to the sea. I had already seen my dream home on the internet a few days earlier. A dilapidated farmhouse with sea views and a fenced off paddock, ready for my horses! We pulled up outside. “I don’t think this is the right house Fabio, where’s the sea view?” He said if we drove a few minutes down the hill and round the bend we could get a glimpse! I focused on the paddock and asked how many acres were included. Fabio shuffled around awkwardly and told me the paddock belonged to the house next door! We spent the following few hours driving around the rolling hills of Le Marche. The views were breathtaking and the sense of stepping back in time was beginning to wash over me. Acres of vineyards and olive groves surrounded us. I felt my shoulders drop, totally relaxed, as I scanned the countryside.
We were taken to see a large pile of bricks and stone in the middle of a field, listed as a partially renovated house! We drove on. Another ‘house’ was eventually found a half mile walk uphill with no road access. The details stated this property needed minor building work, but something was missing, the roof!
I know the agents in England like to exaggerate on the details of the properties they are selling, but here in Italy it was a whole different level!
I tore up the remaining house details I had printed off, took a deep breath and opened my mind to more possibilities.
Michael was flagging so it was time to get him fed and watered in the nearest bar/cafe. I didn’t want him to go all negative and logical.
We stopped off at a beautiful restaurant, Casa de Mar, in Campofilone. Situated right on the coast, with the sound of crashing waves on the rocks and a beer in his hand, Michael was happy. We ordered sea food pasta and a bottle of pecorino from the local cantina, Centanni in Montefiore dell’Aso. The three of us sat and talked for a couple of hours. We tried to give Fabio a clearer picture of what we wanted, but to be honest, like most people, we didn’t know what we wanted until we saw it. Michael told Fabio that unless Dawn gets that special feeling about a property, we move on to the next. Fabio looked a little perplexed and gave me a nervous smile. With everyone watered, wined and fed we set off again.
We viewed our first occupied house. We were warmly welcomed by a lovely, elderly couple with very few teeth. They proudly showed us round their home, which had been in the family for three generations. We were shown the strawberry plants in the allotment and the oak tree planted by her great grandfather. The bathroom facilities were a little lacking. There was an outside toilet in a shed and inside a shower head was loosely attached to a couple of wall tiles.
It certainly had possibilities but it didn’t have the wow factor.
We drove on, to be honest I had no idea where I was by now, but it didn’t matter, everywhere was beautiful. We were taken to another farmhouse, a promising location, until we stepped out of the car and inhaled. Looking down the valley we saw a long low building. Fabio informed us, rather reluctantly, that it was a pig farm. We moved swiftly on. The next house we saw was lovely, a complete renovation but it certainly had potential. The owners greeted us and took us into a small out building with a rather interesting aroma. There were glass bottles lined up along a rather lopsided wooden shelf nailed to the wall. The owner opened a bottle and poured out a thick, red/brown liquid into a few plastic cups. Homemade vino cotto he informed us proudly.
Vino cotto, literally means cooked wine and is famous in the Le Marche region. It is a strong ruby-colored wine, usually semi-sweet, and traditionally drunk in small glasses with puddings and cheese.
It is produced from the must of the local grapes, heated in a large copper vessel until reduced to a half or third of its original volume, and then fermented. It can be aged for years and barrels can be topped up with each harvest.
It tasted and smelt a little like sherry and reminded me of my grandmother getting rather tipsy every Christmas. We sipped politely as we took a tour of the house. He was very keen to top up our cups, usually when our backs were turned. After the wine during lunch, the hot sun and the long drive I was beginning to feel a little light headed. I think the plan was to get us drunk and shake hands on the purchase of their home! We thanked them kindly for their hospitality and made a swift getaway to the sanctuary of our hotel…. to be continued.
Appassionata is a boutique, family run, fractional ownership business set in the heart of Italy.
We are finding more and more US based owners are seeing the benefits of buying into our fractional ownership homes. Not least because of the very favorable exchange rates.
With 30 year highs in the Dollar/Sterling exchange rate, it makes buying in pounds sterling a very attractive option to those holding dollars. In the last 3 years alone there has been a 30% increase in value. A great time to buy.
The world’s economic uncertainty, not least since the US elections, have a great deal of people thinking about asset protection and diversification.
We are constantly looking for the ‘ideal’ use for our money, wanting to have the best of all things: lifestyle enhancement, great value for money and something to pass onto the kids.
A very select group of Americans have discovered the Italian region of Le Marche and the concept of fractional property ownership with Appassionata. This is quite possibly one of the best ways to diversify your investments while getting the lifestyle benefits of owning a luxury property in Italy, for a fraction of the price.
The AARP magazine considers Le Marche as one of the 5 best places to retire in the world, so it would make sense to consider not only spending more time here but make a lifestyle investment at the same time.
Fractional ownership offers American holiday home purchasers the perfect opportunity to invest in the lifestyle of their dreams on the European continent without any of the potential pitfalls of buying outright.
The simplicity of Appassionata’s offering in the stunning Le Marche region, is where we believe opportunities in the Italian property market are going to flourish. Not only are property prices 35% lower than neighbouring Tuscany, they are significantly lower than the capital city of Rome. The region offers everything from snow-capped mountains to Blue Flag beaches, interspersed with rolling hills dotted with vineyards and olive groves, and picturesque hilltop towns. The rich lands incorporate 180 kilometres of coastline and the largest number of museums and galleries in Italy. Easy access to all the main cities and multiple airports, makes Le Marche ideally placed.
Here at Appassionata, we don’t foresee our market slowing down and have just launched our new property. Il Riposo – ‘The Retreat’ is a unique four bedroom house dating back to the 12th century. Situated in the medieval village of Patrignone the house enjoys open views to the rolling hills beyond and has a private swimming pool sitting within a walled garden. The fractional ownership offered is for a one tenth, five week share in perpetuity, and as the property is held within a UK company your purchase would be in sterling, with prices starting from £95,000 pounds sterling (approximately $118,000 dollars at todays exchange rate) . With over 36 satisfied owners from around the world this proven formula is a compelling solution to purchasing a holiday home in these uncertain times.
This hidden gem of Italy means that American purchasers can own a share in the property of their dreams, benefit as the property appreciates in value, have the freedom of being able to sell, will, transfer or place the share in a trust at any time.
And so, while we continue to watch what will happen in the wake of Trump’s election the financially savvy will open their eyes to fractional ownership as a practical and sensible way of owning and enjoying a luxury property overseas; without the hassle, complications and expense associated with full ownership.
One of our greatest joys is meeting clients from all over the world and introducing them to this very special place. It is wonderful to watch their immersion into Italian life. To experience slow living, to step back time and remember to breathe!
Most of us have experienced life in the fast lane, time passing us by too quickly, but not daring to stop in case we are trampled on in the rush to reach the ever moving finish line!
Appassionata offers you the chance to buy a luxury lifestyle investment to enjoy with your family and friends in the heart of this beautiful country.
A few years ago we were invited over to our friend’s house for supper in Montefiore. We arrived late, as usual, my fault not Michael’s! We were introduced to a lovely Dutch couple, Constance and Bert Jacobs. I liked them instantly, they have a zest for life and adventure and love Italy as much as we do.
I was lucky to be seated next to Bert, a striking man with a wonderful laugh and enviable thick wavy hair! We ate delicious food, sipped wonderful wines and chatted all night.
He told me they chose to move to Le Marche because life here fits like a glove, I know what he means. The first time they visited le Marche, they fell in love. Twelve years on and they still feel blessed to have discovered this special part of Italy they call home. When the sun is setting they love to sit out on their terrace with a glass of wine, watching the changing colours of the sky. Quality of life is important.
Bert has a wonderful, calm aura and as the evening went on he talked to me about his greatest passion, painting. I love meeting creative, positive people who love what they do. I felt this was going to be an interesting evening.
He was born in the Netherlands and trained as a master painter in Utrecht. When he finished collage he wanted to go on to the Art Academy, but had to do military service. After the army he needed to earn some money. He started out as a freelance interior stylist, creating set designs and shop interiors. He moved into the advertising business and stayed there for many years. His ambition was always to return to art, now retired and living in Italy he has the time and inspiration to paint.
I arranged to visit his studio the following week. They have a beautiful town house in the historic centre of Montefiore. The living space covers four floors, the gallery is on the top floor. The house is beautifully designed, both Constance and Bert have an exceptional eye for detail.
When I entered the studio I was speechless and quite overwhelmed. Surrounded by huge vibrant paintings, each one telling a story with colour, movement and passion. I gazed at each painting. I step back, move to the left, to the right. Each position gives me a glimpse of something new, something hidden.
Bert is quite uncomfortable when asked how, what or why he paints a particular piece. He told me he paints to express his creativity, feelings and emotion. His favourite theme is women, they are exquisite and unique. I agree!
He is inspired by beauty. A ballet, an ancient tale, a movement or an object. Expression, excitement and colour are characteristics of his work.
He paints on large wooden panels, using a spatula and acrylic paint. Working on a wooden base allows him to use more force when moving the paint around. The paint is colour fast, adheres well and is quick drying.
The paintings are very dynamic and have a powerful use of colour, but they also have a subtle and refined emotion. They are created with passion and sense of composition.
He is the most unpretentious artist I have ever met, which is very refreshing. He loves to hear what people see in one of his painting, everyone sees a painting through their own eyes.
Over the last few years we have become good friends and I visit his studio regularly. We have several of Bert’s paintings hanging on our walls at home. They bring a smile to my face and brighten up the day. Each time I visit his studio I fall in love with another one and always manage to find space for one more!
Family, friends and our owners constantly admire them and visit his studio to see his latest creations. Last year Bert was commissioned by our American friend to paint eleven paintings! They now hang in her beautiful home on Martha’s Vineyard.
Italy is famous for many things, especially food! Their passion for pasta is on a whole different level. Browse the local supermarkets around Le Marche and you will find aisle after aisle displaying every shape and make of pasta. Most Italian’s eat pasta at least once a day!
Here we give you a small insight into a special pasta made locally.
Regina dei Sibillini is a farm in Montefortino, Le Marche. They cultivate durum wheat on the Sibillini Mountains and use it to make pasta. The late growing wheat is sown at the end of October and grows slowly under the falling snow between November and March. During this time, it rests, keeps warm and is slowly hydrated. The wheat grows and sprouts and from this originates the popular Italian saying …. ‘Sotto la neve, pane – under the snow, bread!’
The durum wheat has a strong ear of corn that overhangs on a very tall stem, usually measuring between 150-160cms. Its rustic nature contributes to the production of an excellent durum wheat flour. The fragrance released during the pasta making process is an intense scent of bread and biscuits!
Regina dei Sibillini produces pasta according to the artisan process. It is drawn through bronze wire and then put to dry at low temperatures. Only wheat that comes from the topsoil at an altitude between 600 to 900 meters above sea level is used. Their philosophy is to cultivate a quality product.
The geographic position of the farm in the Sibillini Mountains guarantees a truly uncontaminated ambient: water and air. Essential elements in the production of quality pasta.
This raw material cultivated, wholesome and with unique properties gives the product a characteristic taste rich in flavor. The aroma is distinguished the moment the pasta is cooked.
Compared to other durum wheat its low gluten content makes it much more tolerable.
“It is the bond with the land where we live, love and respect that brought us to undertake this journey. The nature that surrounds us is what inspired us. The best way to honour this is to capture the taste, smell and colours.”
Respecting the Italian tradition Regina dei Sibillini produces all the classic shaped pastas.
Their logo and packaging was inspired by the mountains. The icy colour of the snow, and the winter sky. The transparent opening on the front of the box allows you see exactly what you are buying. The irregular form of their logo reminds us of the white slopes and the mountains profile. The snow that covers and protects the wheat.
REGINA DEI SIBILLINI
via R. Papiri, 30 – 63858 Montefortino (Fermo)
Marche – Italia
Michele Alesiani & his lovely family…
Address and Bookings….
Osteria Pepe Nero
via Castello s.n.
63064 Cupra Marittima, AP, Le Marche, Italy.
Chapter Two – Florence
I gazed around the Piazza and sipped my cappuccino elegantly, copying the glamorous Italians on the next table. Trying not to get the milky froth all around my mouth.
I love to people watch. The tourists racing to keep up with their flag bearing tour guides. The Nonna’s dressed in black, carrying their heavy bags of shopping back home to their families. I listened closely to the sing song melody of the Italian language, exaggerated with arms and hands waving in the air. Everything about the Italians is passionate and dramatic.
I meandered back to the hotel, absorbed in the sounds of the city. The walk should have taken me ten minutes. You guessed it, luckily for me I took another wrong turning!
I stumbled upon a lovely little shop halfway down a narrow street. The window had a wonderful display of tassels, braids and ribbons.
As an interior designer I am always on the lookout for things fabulous and unique. This was an Aladdin’s cave of colour and texture. I bought tassels in every shape, size and colour. Natural greens, blues and siennas with a hint of gold.
Each item was lovingly wrapped in tissue and delicately placed in a posh paper bag. No sign of plastic in this shop!
Shopping in Italy is a very different experience. Most shops are owned and run by family member. They are proud of what they do and love to tell you how many generations have worked there. Their knowledge is extensive, and they take the time it takes. Note to self, allow more time when shopping in Italy!
I floated back to our hotel, clutching my purchases and feeling rather proud of myself, I had found my way back.
My husband, Michael, was happy. The rugby match had gone well, his team had won and he was celebrating with a cold beer in the hotel bar.
He looked suspiciously at my shopping bag. “What have you bought”? I told him,” gorgeous tassels in natural hues………” I received the typical response from a man who thinks shopping is only to purchase essential items, food and drink. “How many tassels do you need, what are they for, how much did they cost”?!!! I quickly changed the subject and asked about our dinner plans for that evening, while visualising one of the tassels threaded through an antique key, hanging from wardrobe I had recently finished painting.
I eat fish, no meat. Michael loves meat and eats fish. He had spoken to the hotel manager earlier and asked his advice on fish restaurants on the outskirts of the city. Away from the touristy eateries and high prices. He knew the perfect place!
We were picked up in a taxi later that evening, it was the first and only time I have travelled in a taxi in Italy. The manager had given the driver directions to the restaurant so we both sat back and enjoyed the drive across Florence. Thirty minutes later we pulled up outside a large wooden door, with no sign, in the heart of an industrial estate. We stepped out of the taxi and looked at each other, both thinking the same thing. This can’t be right. Before we had chance to get back into the taxi, it roared off into the distance.
We rang the doorbell and waited. I was feeling a little nervous. Not about my surroundings, but it was nine o’clock and Michael was hungry, we needed to find food before he turned all hunter gather on me.
The door opened and we cautiously stepped into another world. Before our eyes was a busy, bustling restaurant. A beautiful, yet simple décor. Delicious aromas wafting from the open kitchen blending with the lively voices of sixty plus Italians all talking at once. In the large walled courtyard, huge interconnecting sunshades provided a soft textured ceiling. The lighting was low and atmospheric, with a blend of candles and fairy lights. Each table dressed with a small vase of fresh flowers. Crisp white linen tablecloths draped down to the cool cotto tiled floor.
We were shown to our table, and looked around. There were large families, three generations enjoying a celebration together. Young lovers with eyes only for each other. Young children out with their parents, babies peacefully sleeping in their pushchairs. Children are always made to feel welcome in restaurants in Italy, however posh or expensive. Family is very important and younger members are never excluded. Another plus for the Italian lifestyle.
Our waiter came to take our order. This was going to be tricky. He spoke no English, we spoke no Italian and had left our phrase book back at the hotel!
We shouted “menu” at him and mimed opening a book. Why do people shout in their own language at foreigners, expecting them to understand once the decibels are turned up?
He shook his head “no menooo, you wanta da otta fish o colda fish”. Whita wine o reda wine? Hot fish we both said, white wine we agreed
I glanced across at Michael, he was looking a little concerned. He’s lovely, but he likes to know what’s happening at all times, in the present and the future. I knew he would struggle with the concept of not being able to converse with the waiter, he loves to talk!
He also likes to see a menu, ask questions and check nothing has vinegar on it. He likes to see the wine list and chat about different grapes, countries, regions, years. He especially likes to see prices and mentally calculate how much the whole meal will cost. He likes to feel in control of the situation.
Our waiter disappeared into the kitchen and we sipped our wine, poured from a glass jug. Michael shared his concerns about not knowing what food would arrive and how many courses would be served. I tried to reassure him. “Let’s just relax and enjoy the experience, it will be fun to try new tastes and not know what to expect”. He looked doubtful and took a large swig of wine, it was delicious, he looked happier.
The more courses we ate, the more wine we drank, the more he relaxed. I wish I could give you a detailed description of the food we ate, but I can’t. I can remember the interiors, because I seem to have a photographic memory for those. I think I drank too much wine and the food detail got lost. It’s a little hazy. What I can remember is that every dish was exquisite, fresh and unpretentious. The seafood was scrumptious the pasta cooked to perfection. I think we had seven courses, to be honest I lost count.
I have never seen Michael so relaxed, enjoying the present and not worrying about the future. We had no idea how much this dining experience was going to cost, we didn’t care.
The waiter brought over bottles of grappa, mistra and limoncello, to help with the digestion! The limoncello was divine. Michael was so, so happy, he tried all three, twice.
We swayed over to the bar to pay the bill and hopefully order a taxi. Michael was very pleasantly surprised when he saw the total, half the cost he had toted up in his head. The bar man generously offered him another drink on the house. I began to wonder if I would be able to get him back to the hotel. The taxi arrived and I managed to steer him onto the back seat and close the door.
We were dropped off at the end of a one way street, only a couple of minutes walk from our hotel. We needed a walk! In the distance we could hear opera music, as we walked closer I recognised an aria from La Boheme, one of my favourite operas. We entered the Piazza, and there under the moonlight of a warm summer’s evening were hundreds of people enjoying an open air opera. I looked up to the balconies of the surrounding apartments, each one crowded with local Italians holding a candle and swaying to the music. It was truly magical and that was the exact moment I fell in love in love with Italy.