On March 12, I used to be scheduled to fly to Spain with my spouse, my greatest good friend, his spouse, a tv manufacturing crew and 25 journey company. We have been going to guide our company on a 10-day trek that was to start out in Madrid and finish in Malaga with Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville in between. The movie crew was to shoot season six of our tv program, “Palate to Palette.” The company had signed up for the guided tour to the entire locations I fell in love with on my journey to Spain in 2011.
They first traveled with us to Tuscany. Everybody loved that journey a lot they stated, “The place are we going subsequent?” So, we took them to Venice, Bologna and Milan. On the finish of that tour they posed the query once more and we took them to Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Naples. In between all of that, we launched into a complete tour zigzagging and crisscrossing my residence state of Mississippi.
When these journeys started, I knew I’d have enjoyable turning individuals on to the individuals and locations I’ve met on my travels, however I by no means anticipated to make such significant and long-lasting friendships with the individuals who joined us. That was such a fantastic bonus. We figured we have to be doing one thing proper as a result of these buddies stored eager to pack their baggage and signal on to eat and drink their method via these fascinating and exquisite locales the best way we do it on a locals-only foundation.
Spain was not the one tour that we have been internet hosting this yr. The itinerary had us leaving Spain on the finish of March and heading over to Tuscany the place have been we might lead three separate teams via that a part of the world that we have now come to know and love so effectively. This fall, we have been scheduled to journey with three extra teams, one to Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Naples, and the 2 others to Tuscany.
After which 2020 occurred, and we regretfully needed to cancel or reschedule all seven of these excursions.
Two of the spring Tuscany teams have been rescheduled to simply after Thanksgiving of this yr which, earlier in March, appeared like a secure wager. We have been instructed by some that we might gradual the unfold in 30 days, and plenty of thought this factor would probably be cleared up by Easter, then Mom’s Day, then summer time, then fall. However by Might we lastly figured that just about everybody was flawed about virtually every thing to that time and seemingly nobody – not even the medical specialists – might predict the way forward for this specific virus and its impression on the world. It’s not trying good for the 2 teams we rescheduled for after Thanksgiving, however my fingers are crossed, and I’m hanging onto a thread of hope, whereas creating contingency plans over the following few weeks.
Touring has been such a big a part of my life over these previous a number of years as I’ve discovered myself spending three months annually in Italy. Just lately, I spent a while considering these previous a number of years and the time I’ve spent abroad and got here to an unexpected epiphany. European journey provides stunning structure, wonderful historical past, and glorious meals, however what I’ll recognize greater than something is the individuals.
I’ve made such shut and lasting relationships with the Europeans I’ve met over the past decade that these relationships appear to trump the entire typical issues – buildings, palaces, museums – we initially traveled to Europe to see. It’s throughout these unusual days that I miss my buddies probably the most. I miss Annagloria and Enzo the homeowners of the villas wherein we keep. They have been the primary Italians we met on our first journey to Tuscany years in the past. We have now gotten to know their youngsters effectively. We have now hosted them over right here.
Many of those buddies began out as individuals we employed to carry out a job. However they rapidly grew to become shut buddies. Marina Mengelberg, a Dutch girl who lives in Tuscany, began out as a tour information for our visits to Siena, however she and her two fantastic youngsters have virtually turn out to be part of our household over the previous few years.
It’s the lack of visits to my good friend Dario Cecchini’s butcher store and Fabio Picchi’s Teatro del Sale. It’s the pizza within the small restaurant in Tavarnelle. But it surely’s additionally the individuals we have now come to know who work in these spots. I miss seeing our good friend Paolo run himself ragged making an attempt to serve each desk in his restaurant whereas his mom slowly and methodically cooks the entire meals in her tiny little kitchen.
The surroundings is world-class in each nook of Italy, however the drivers who’ve been working with us for years corresponding to Fabio, Gabriele and Federico make it enjoyable and much more significant. I’m able to see – and spend time with – all of those individuals once more.
In the long run, I feel it’s all the time the individuals. The restaurant enterprise just isn’t the meals enterprise, it’s the individuals enterprise. The identical goes for journey. My grandfather used to say, “A wealthy man has his first greenback. A really rich man has his first good friend.” He additionally used to say, “You may decide a person’s wealth not by the dimensions of his checking account, however by the depth and breadth of his friendships.” After I first heard these statements as a young person, I believed it was a pile of bunk. At present, I do know he was spot on. I’m a rich man right now – not as a result of I’ve a bunch of cash within the financial institution (I don’t), however – as a result of I’ve such deep and significant relationships at residence and overseas. I’m really blessed.
ROBERT ST. JOHN is a restaurateur, chef and writer. Discover his recipe for Annagloria’s Gorgonzola Grapes at robertstjohn.com.