After driving onto the famed Piazza della Signoria in Florence shouting at each other and by the way listening to Italian Nonnas adding to the chorus crying ‘non si puo’, ‘non si puo’ (you can’t drive here they were shouting, naturally protective of their prized piazza), we were glad to abandon our punto and sit ourselves down on a step outside this tiny little cave like cafe where two Italian brothers sold the best panino and vino in dare I say it, Italy.
Could I tell you the name of the street of my favourite eatery? No. But I could take you there by the hand. And so I did. Still in shock from driving onto Signoria, my law abiding Irish farmer welcomed his glass of Chianti like it were a hot cup of tea after silage. A second panino and glass of vino were taken in his free hand to watch the sunset over the Ponte Vecchio as the jewellers on the old bridge switched off their lights for the evening. It was our real honeymoon, we were in Italy and coming to realize that our marriage already was a mixture of drama, Corkonian temper, Kerry compromise, oh and love. A good enough start.
For the next leg of our journey we took our life in our hands (see drama) and drove into the hills of the Mugello. Wanting to impress my new husband with the Italian countryside, we stayed in agriturismi (Italian farmhouses offering lodgings, breakfasts and sometimes dinner to guests for a fee) along the way. It was on one such stopover that we met the lovely Silvia and Marco. While checking in with Silvia on arrival, Marco passing by spotted Dan’s hands and came over and asked if we were farmers. I was new to the farming game so I might have given a nonchalent shrug more intent on using my Tuscan accent to impress our hosts. Little did I know I was to become translator on our trip for the two farmers. Marco held up Dan’s hands like they were prizes, congratulating him on getting away from the farm.
Remember at this point, I was not yet living on the farm and was only playing at farmer’s wife, stuff of make believe. I certainly did not know what lay ahead or indeed how difficult it would be to leave the farm. Silvia knew. And in her veteran farmer’s wife eyes I saw something that I didn’t quite yet understand.
And my oh my, was I sorry that I wasn’t there the day they taught the words for tractor hitch or Aberdine Angus in college but I managed my translation work by adding the odd ‘o’ or ‘a’ at the end of agricultural vocabulary I was unfamiliar with. As farmers, Marco and Dan were natural comrades, we visited his local farming friends, drank their wine, praised their olive oil. We discussed their difficulties, their problems, their solutions. We learned a lot. At dinner, in front of the other diners in this agriturismo turned pizzeria (Marco made pizza between milking, now, that’s a farmer!), in-laws were paraded in to see the Irish farmer and his rookie wife, God help us. To his utter mortification, my shy Irish farmer, was presented each evening with Beef Florentine which came on a platter half the size of the table. You had to, you see, make sure that when a farmer wasn’t working, when he was on holidays, he was well looked after.
So you see, the fun started in an agriturismo in the hills of the Mugello on a farm in Italy. I learned in the years to come that time off is very precious and difficult to come by in farming. Over time, he won me over, our house is less Cork temper and more Kerry compromise and calm. Or at least that’s the aim. Those precious escapes are planned with fun and good living in mind. Ten years in, settled on my farm in North Kerry, I think on that time (or escape) with a knowing smile, raising my morning coffee to Silvia and her understanding eyes. And once again, apologies to the Nonnas at the Piazza Della Signoria. Non si puo, non si puo, Signore, avete ragione!