Italy changes you. Just when you think your aching joints won’t let you climb another hill so you can be in awe of yet another stunning view, something important comes along and smacks you in the face.
You are still an old curmudgeon, but now your face is red and you’ve had an epiphany.
Say, like thousands of other tourists, you’ve just watched the Festa della Madonna Bruna in Matera. Imagine: some old guy like me except with talent for making things spends months in a barn carefully crafting a parade float. It’s the most beautiful thing you can imagine. He’s poured his heart and soul into it. Then he gets to show it off during the single day of the festival. His pride and joy, housing the sacred Brown Madonna, winds around the square so that people can admire it, surrounded by Carabinieri, military police with big weapons to protect its glorious beauty. Then, suddenly, just as you’ve begun looking toward the gelato stand wistfully, wild youth skitter out of the crowd and begin bashing and smashing. The carabinieri are defeated. The float lies in shambles. It’s the mother of all WTF moments for you if you weren’t expecting it.
The whole festival is televised. Yep, this is important. It has a perpetual audience.
So what have we learned from this? I’m gonna just come right out with it. The moral of the story is: it’s time for the young bucks to defeat the old ways and start fresh with new and vital ideas.
Yes, even the decrepit cheer for the young bucks, Fellini’s vitellone.
And once you let this epiphany rotate through your memory a couple of times you realize that all those news stories about Italy being on its last legs morally, economically, and gelato-wise are somehow just the same old insipid warnings that have always been told in the quiet spaces between corporate atrocities.
I have observed amazing transfers of power in Italy. A successful IT guy takes a sniff of Bejing smog and says to himself “Geez, my family lives in the most desirable place on earth and I’m coughing my way through China” so he gives up the big salary and joins his father in the business of making glass all it can be. He is a Crystal Master Craftsman. His motto is “passion, tradition, emotion.”
A young buck takes over the family wine business to make fine wine, but still continues the bulk wine tradition for the locals. Now Madrevite winery is the center of the community and and grows some long lost food items like Fagiolina del Trasimeno, ancient beans used by the Etruscans that were not so easy to grow, so when imports came from the new world, they almost entirely replaced the local stock.
Which brings us to an image I don’t have to explain to you:
We are enjoying the shade of a shed on the property of Cà du Ferrà, house of the ironworker. “Bonazolae” – Colline di Levanto DOC White Wine is being poured for us. It is a 2017 Vini Buone d’Italia award winner, and comes from a land unscathed by noxious, profit-making chemicals.
Antonio, the father, links his beliefs in the stewardship of the land to the traditions of the American Indian. Davide, pouring, takes it from there, making sure the new vineyards are organic so that the wines will reflect the territory. It’s attention to detail, and people of these sloping, seaside lands are very good at it.
That attention to detail extends to the cork. No rare trees needed to be stripped of their bark to make the Cà du Ferrà corks.
The same attention to detail extends to the berries planted amongst the vines. They are trellised just like the grapes, and will go into some of Liguria’s best organic gelato.
And the really, really, cool thing? You can stay in the Ca du Ferra Farm & Relax, a B&B that sits pretty in the heart of all this perfection. It has a commanding view and it’s a mere 400 meters from the sea. In fact, it’s the B&B closest to the sea in Liguria. Like the wine, it’s a very highly rated by those who’ve experienced it.
If you value pleasure as a balance to work, I’d spend some time here contemplating a life with a healthy respect of nature, animals, people, and the environment. Something like that is getting hard to find these dark days. Perhaps some adjustment is necessary.
Ca du Ferra Farm and Relax
Via Gavazzo 46 19011
Bonassola (La Spezia) – Italy