It was 9am when I pried open my eyes. Last night we rode down from Liechtenstein into the quaint town of Voghera where Mirella Vilardi hosted us in her beautiful apartment. We reached late- dined even later – followed that up with conversations with Mirella and by the time we hit the sack it was long past midnight. Anu was awake ahead of me (story of every morning) and impatiently nudged me “Let’s get ready… we have an interesting day ahead!” Readers be warned- energetic mornings are not my particular favourites- and I made a vain attempt to bury myself deeper under the sheets. What followed is the best kept secret of matrimony- but suffice to say that within a short while I was dressed, ready and prepared to face the day.
In the meanwhile, going by previous evening’s interactions, Mirella decided (rightly of course) that we were nice people- nice enough for her to take a leave from work- to help us sample the Italian country life! Now Mirella is a senior journalist with the Italian magazine “Oltre” and her specialization is wine. And we were in the heart of the wine country… the Pavia / Lombardy region is famous for the Pinot Noir wines.
So as the Italian sun worked its magic upon the grapes, we zipped past traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and little village lanes until very soon, we were deep into the green-gold countryside. Around us, the gentle slopes of the Oltrepò Pavese mountains were carved-out by grape plantations and after about 30 minutes we pulled in at the Scuropasso Vineyards. That is how Mirella introduced us to her special friends- Fabio and Manuela Marazzi and their daughter Flavia. The Marazzi family owns the vineyards and for several generations have been producing wines- “Scuropasso”.
Flavia, all of 18 years was already training to be a wine specialist- and she took over as our self-appointed tour guide and translator. Truth be told, she de-mystified much of the wine-making process for us during the tour. Theory over, it was time to sample their produce- and we did it in typical Italian style: a multi course meal at their vineyard.
Now meals are serious affairs in the Italian culture- serious enough for us to invest nearly 3.5 hours on this particular activity. We sampled a wide variety of wines from their collection which was paired with farm fresh produce, hand-made ham, salamis, breads, various cheeses and of course the country classic- pasta with pesto. The Marazzis believe in cooking and serving personally- and we bonded over great wines and home cooked food. Our discussions meandered from wine to opera, food, politics, yoga… and everything else in between. Where our language fell short, body-language took over. The sun moved westwards, the shadows grew longer and as I watched the expressive hands and faces all around, I could not help but marvel at the simplicity, openness and warmth with which we were welcomed into the Italian countryside.
“Time spent with friends is time well invested”- so goes an Italian proverb. This adage may date back several centuries but the Italian way of life at least in the countryside, still embraces this with gusto. We were fortunate to sample this authentic experience today, thanks to our kind and generous host Mirella Vilardi and the Marazzi family of the Scuropasso Vineyards. “Millie Grazie” indeed.