I’m reposting my entry for a World Nomad travel scholarship about a unique experience I had in Italy earlier this year. A 2,500 character limit it was a challenge to condense a “local encounter I’ll never forget”, but I think it was great practice as a writer!
Skepticism is every solo traveller’s default, so when a friend invited me to meet a Couchsurfing host I leered and kept my expectations low. Yet once we met, I couldn’t turn down a tour of the “green heart of Italy” by the lively Michael. As we drove into Umbria’s countryside we cooed over Easter lambs, only to be reminded they wouldn’t survive past the holiday weekend. It won me over.
The day was full of things we’d never have encountered on our own. At lunch he told us to fill our “crescia”, with veggies dripping in olive oil so that each bite was decadent and wonderfully messy. Michael mentioned a friend pressed olive oil and might be free to hang out that evening. With no expectations (doesn’t everyone press olive oil in Italy?), we went off into the night.
A massive German Shephard loomed at the edge of a long dirt road, its eyes glowing high off the ground. Jack was supposedly friendly, but I wasn’t taking the chance being so far from reliable cell service. His owner roared up in a Jeep, bleached white-blue hair popping out of the dark and clear-framed glasses catching light.
“Welcome to Vini Tili!”
Our night was more than just a vineyard walk. Marcos is a 25th generation winemaker and the captain of his family’s legacy; a celebrated organic winery with a reputation built on superb product and limited availability. His pride was beaming as he showed us around and we were glued to every word. This guy was good at building the anticipation.
I’m not wine educated, but it doesn’t take an expert to know that his wine is top caliber. We learned the family history and moved from wine to wine, our glasses sloshing with hand gestures and our Italian bolder with each sip. Every casket held a story or sparked emotion, the great barrels muffled loud laughter and my disbelief at the situation. Jake the dog was the only one keeping their cool.
It was hard to not be inspired by Marcos’ passion. His happiness and dedication was in each word he spoke. This was something I’ve heard about but never experienced. This wasn’t just a job. It was his life.
A tiny wine casket was the climax of the evening. It was the last of its kind, a coveted year worth more than any sum. An ancestor put their love into it at the turn of the century and its sat there since, never to be enjoyed by its maker. It wasn’t just unattainable and unique; the family heirloom represented their legacy. Liquid only for the ones that were made from it.
And we were invited to taste it.