So, last summer we visited Italy. My wife had always wanted to visit, but more than that, her best friend (living in England for the last few decades) had been talking about us visiting them on her husband's family farm in Italy, where they vacation every summer. He's mainly English, since he grew up in Manchester, but as his mom is Italian, and he visited there every summer as a kid, he speaks decent Italian, and thinks of himself as English-Italian, or something like that.
Anyway, I had no idea what to expect when we got there. Flew into Rome, stayed one night, and drove up to their farm in Emilia-Romagna, south of Modena. I thought it would look something like this:
You know, an actual farm. So we drive through Sassuolo, south of Modena, and I think we must be getting close. We're suppose to meet them in the parking lot of the nearest big (read small) town, Palagano, which is at least big enough to have a market. But this took forever on rather windy small roads. Finally we get there, and we find even narrower mountain roads to climb. Finally, we arrive at the place, which is no town, maybe a collection of 12 houses spread out.
This is what greets us:
This is not a working farm at all, this is actually physical proof of why millions of Italians left their homeland in search of a better life. At best, this mountainous land can produce subsistence farming. The farm house has been added onto over the years, and has room for 3 separate families now, but since they were all there on holiday, we got shunted off to an Auntie that had a ski lodge in Cento Croci, about 20 minutes away up a one lane road.
It had 15 rooms, but we were the only people staying there. Accommodations were rather sparse, hot water, an occasional luxury (wood fired hot water heaters), keys not provided. Rather interesting, but we were here to have fun!
Ok, the next morning, something rather un-fun greeted me. I had heard what sounded like a crash in the middle of the night, but I was so exhausted, I didn't bother to get up and look out the window, but apparently the only other people there (friends of the owner) had backed into our lovely Citroën C4 when leaving.
Oh well, the show must go on. Auntie denied any knowledge of what might have happened in their parking lot that night, so we proceeded back down the mountain to the family farm for a welcoming repast.
Truly, an awesome feast, much of it made by the extended family (is there any other kind in Italy?). Killed their own boars, made their own various salumi, and their own wine, it was 3 hours of absolute amazing eating. And no, the Italian women did not stop pushing the food, no matter how much you ate. Well hard to complain about this. I had the matriarch thank everyone for making us feel the tiniest bit Italian (in Italian).
The view was nice:
But again, with the family. My friends ask the matriarch about the car, hey, someones cousin, Roberto, right up the road, he has a shop, maybe he can help you out. And off I go with Rodger (my friend's dad) to Roberto's tiny shop up a further windy road, and he says he can fix it. Leave it for a couple of days. Lo and behold, he does! Only 80 euros to fix! (which really, is cheap, no sarcasm). Ironically he owns a Jeep, and makes fun of cheap French cars ("ya, the jeep, that's a real car") when we pick it up.
But the kicker is, when we check out of this youth hostel, with no hot water, no idea that we'll even have to pay anything, aren't we family? Her auntie says it's 600 euros for the 5 nights.
You know (those of you who are married) there are times when you really earn your stripes; if (in an alternate universe) if I had been married to anyone other than my wife, I would have gone ape-shit there. But no, calmly I reach in my wallet for my credit card. FAMILY.
ANYWAY - sidenote. One really different thing about Italians is even if they have lived somewhere else for years, their whole life, even generations, they think of themselves as coming from some tiny spot with hardly any people at all. Very different. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast.