My Story


From my days running a nighclub in France to, travelling around Italy learning the language and trying to find a place to lay my hat, settling in my own little piece of heaven and starting a new business.

Here is my story...

Part 2 "Where theres muck, theres Grappa"

Even though I felt Italy was my future I found it hard to cut that umbilical cord so not wanting to make that same mistake I had with France all those years ago.

I decided to keep my house in Cheshire and use a small amount of capital to buy two adjoining Cantinas (Cellars) that were below ground level street side but on ground level to the rear of the property with natural light entering through their two windows and low entrance doors.

Cantinas in rural Italy are often where donkey and chickens are kept, the first impressions of what I could do were clouded by the smell and lack of light.

My imagination went beyond the low ceiling, the smell and the inherent lack of plumbing or any services. I imagined how great those two arch vault ceiling could be plastered and lit by natural light. The cantina had never been cleaned out and as I was to find out, the earth level was one metre below the one I could see.

Priced at 20,000E it would be a relatively small investment, if only as a holiday home incase my mind did change and I needed to return (running in donkey poo stained shoes) back to the UK.

Going to the Notaio office, a Notaio is the official representative who reads through your deeds and purchase agreement ensuring both parties are able to sell and buy and helps with the exchange of contracts . I had booked an English speaking one but to my amazement my understanding of Italian within that first year was good, speaking was another matter.

Often I felt like the village idiot, but as they say practice makes perfect so going into the local bar, shops and sitting down in the piazza talking to the old folk improved my language skills, but it can also be a little dangerous as often the dentist hadn’t been the biggest priority in some of the locals life and with ill-fitting teeth or missing ones it can throw your pronunciation off.

Pronunciation is very important; as I found out one night going into the local restaurant and asking for Cane instead of Carne that one letter can be the difference between asking for a well-cooked meat dish or a well-cooked dog.

My project started and the first thing was to clean out the cellars, my initial fears were confirmed, a metre and half of donkey poo laid before my potential floor and me. Where was it going to go? A skip was ordered and the fee of 500E for removal was quoted.

Walking my dog (which I found abandoned in the village some weeks earlier, a devoted animal to me now) later that evening, I looked around to see old men plodding around in the allotments that were scattered around the village, an idea entered my head, it was like one of those cartoon clips the light bulb ignited and I hurried back to the bar in the piazza, ensuring I said my words correctly and in the right order, I needed him to understand precisely and not actually insult any of the villagers as I had done before unintentionally.

I needed him to understand that I had a cantina full of donkey poo and that maybe the local allotment holders would like to take and use, not that I was calling them or him donkey shit!

I realised anything free would go down well and wanted no money for it as where I live scrooge would fit in well, to my surprise I found a line of locals waiting at my cantina door with wheelbarrows and plastic sacks ready to solve my problem and after a 5 day clearing mission I had a height of 2.8 metres and a village full of happy allotmentees, from that day on they said Buongiorno to me and I immediately felt more at home being offered to have a coffee or a grappa with them, its true what they say “where there’s muck there’s grappa”.