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Why do we choose to return to Italy? Is it the food, the wine, the scenery, the rich history? Yes, all these things are indeed fabulous. But no, it’s more than that. What draws us back each year? Why, it’s the people. Pure and simple. Good people make a great place greater. The more one travels this globe, the more you appreciate this simple truth. Here’s a little sampling of folks we’ve befriended in little Montepulciano over the last several years.

Giuseppe the Montepulciano shopkeeper sings. He sings all day. And not just any little ditty. No sir. Neither any pop tune or Euro-trash. Giuseppe sings opera. Verdi, Rossini, Puccini, Monteverdi — hey — ever notice that all these dudes are Italian? So it should come as no surprise to learn, opera was invented by the Italians. And if you want to hear impromptu opera in this little Tuscany hill town, just wander up the Corso to Giuseppe’s shop, where, from the open door you are likely to hear strains of The Barber of Seville or Rigoletto.


They almost look like sisters, don’t they? Lynne, in her running cap, is joined for this happy moment by Montepulciano wine merchant Daniella Gattavechia, who last year went the extra mile for us, literally, delivering a case of wine Lynne’s brother had bought at a neighboring wine cellar. Let me make this clear: Daniella volunteered to make the delivery when she heard us worrying about how we would ever get that heavy load home — and here’s the kicker: she delivered that case of wine — in spite of the fact that it came from a competitor’s wine cellar. Exclamation point. Did I say she went the extra mile?


There are at least two things amazing about Virio Neri. Number one is that he is still working at the age of 88. Number two is that he’s a cobbler. An honest-to-gosh village shoemaker and shoe repair maestro. In spite of the fact that he speaks no English (and my Italian is awful), we two connect — as I think this photo reveals. Thanks to Lynne for capturing the moment.


As every boy of any age knows — a stick is a wonderful thing. It can be a wand, a sword, a guitar, a marching baton. The list goes on, limited only by your imagination. Four-year-old Nea and I have just made friends because he with his stick has just spotted me with mine. He spoke no English, and I very little Italian. Again, language was no barrier. We two boys both spoke “Stick.”



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