La Passeggiata – Home

In Italian, la passeggiata can be translated to an evening stroll, a common daily activity for Italians. Strolling over the uneven cobblestone roads on a warm summer evening to have apperitivo and or gelato with friends before dinner…or for me, it was often alongside the country roads, seeing where my explorations of a new dirt road or forest wandering would take me. I’ve tried to recreate the carefree and aimless wanderings back home in Seattle…but as you can imagine…it’s just not quite the same. I’ve always loved this past time because it’s that slice of day that reminds me to take things slow, that there doesn’t always need to be a direction or purpose, and that being patient is my friend.

While my time in Italy was 8 years ago, often it still feels like I was there last season. Like it never seems that far from my heart. Coming home to La Distesa is a no-brainer for me. It is my default destination anytime I have time off. While there are many other places I want to visit in the world, nothing fills my heart quite like coming home to my family at La Distesa. Over the last few years I’ve only managed to make it over once since I moved back to Seattle in 2013 (last visit was in 2017 for Musica Distesa), but it never felt like I skipped a beat (except my Italian keeps getting crappier and crappier). Picking things up with Corrado and Valeria always feels effortless.

For some reason TIME really made itself known to me this journey. It is moving much quicker than I think. I would only visit with Corrado and Valeria for a few days since we were both on very tight schedules. But in those few short days, never have I felt so elated, confused, lonely, and loved at the same time. That’s travel for ya.

In classic Italian fashion, I reunited with the Dottori family in Rome over a classic Italian lunch with family friends. Far too much food than I could eat (Valeria was worried for me!), all of the amazing wine pairings, and staying well past the restaurant closure. We ate at Trattoria da Cesare, a small classic Roman family restaurant outside of the main hustle and bustle of Rome under the same ownership since the 70’s.

I thought I would try to capture all the amazing food that warms my soul, but I quickly gave up on that and just decided to enjoy my time with the family. Seeing photos of Giacamo and Giulia over the years didn’t do them justice. As soon as I saw Giacamo, I could hardly keep my squealing down. The 6 year old boy I first met now a 14 year old teenage, tall and lanky just like his father (much taller than me!), and with a deeper voice! I could hardly believe how so much mature he looked than even when I last saw him at 11 years old. While on the outside he was “becoming a man”, you could still see the good innocent and childish wonder about him. He would still snuggle up to his papa when he was tired or bored, but being he’s now reached at least 5’10” or 6 ft, he reminded me of a great dane trying to squeeze into their owner’s lap like they used to. It made me giggle so much.

Giacamo is hunched over in this photo but believe me he is much taller than me now!

Giulia: light of my spirit. She was the very first child to truly capture my love. Her strong spirit still there – her crazy personality more alive than ever. At 12 now, she’s just starting to enter the world of “becoming an adult”…and while she is so smart and talented beyond her years, she still has her childlike innocence.

Over the next few days I found myself just staring at the children and observing them. Playing games with them…they speak english now! Thinking about how much they’ve grown and learned, and how so drastically different they will be the next time I see them. They may be entirely different children…who knows! But to watch them grow and be witness to who they are and are becoming as human’s has been such an honor.

It turns out that Corrado had written a third book since I was there last. I had no idea! And he was busy participating in the book and wine tours (of course!). His two presentations in Rome were of course in the most romantic places you can imagine.

The first was at a small wine cafe called Mosto. Packed to the brim, people seated and sitting on steps and standing room! It warmed my heart so much to see Corrado, (whose hair just seems to get wilder and wilder the older he gets haha) speaking so passionately about his philosophies, his politics, and his wine. Out of practice in my listening, I often found myself daydreaming back to the days I spent at the cellar working away in the fields or the bottling room. The other thing I missed about Italy is how people don’t just listen..they actively engage, asking questions, and speak fully and articulately. I find it rare to find these types of discussions in the states.

   

The second presentation took place in a beautiful roman theater.

Complete with the most delicious biscuits and cheese at your seats! I loved that small detail and couldn’t get over it.

This presentation was more about wine…complete with a wine tasting of course with his friend Steffano, also a winemaker, who we had lunch with previously the day or two before.

It was a beautiful evening full of laughs and wine philosophies. Playing with the children and catching the winemakers in their silly moments. Ah the life of a rockstar winemaker. 🙂 

      

A roadtrip from Rome to Cupramontana was perfect. We sang songs and danced, and of course, slept. I arrived back to La Distesa, smiled at all the things that were the same about this agriturismo I have been so lucky enough to call home. Luckily Patti the dog was still kicking it and sweet as ever.

 

The olive tree that Giacamo and Giulia gave to me and Lisa to plant one easter…wasn’t looking the greatest…but.. it still made my heart smile to see it (kind of) growing!

  

April 2013 versus December 2019

We arrived home in the early afternoon so there was still time to make a quick visit to the cellar. That place never ceases to take my breath away. That view is still one of the most breathtaking countrysides I’ve seen. Seeing it just before sunset is always such a special treat. Watching the clouds change color over the green patch covered hillsides.

There is something about the vineyard that brings out the nostalgia and my senses/ I walked alone up and down the rows (oh how I quickly forget the steepness!) to take it all in. Feeling the clay soil beneath my boots felt like being wrapped up in a warm blanket…despite it being winter, the sun still kissed my face and I closed my eyes, took one big inhale took a moment to remember what this all felt like again. To be home.

  

While the vines were the same. The cellar was far from it. I had no idea the cellar had been going through a full on renovation since I was there! They added a whole new level to the cellar, basically building their new home. The family will move from the agriturismo and live at the cellar! The floor to ceiling windows and balcony overlooking the vineyards almost made me cry. I was completely shocked since I had no idea about the tremendous project, but it was amazing. Lisa had also moved into the cellar, now living in the room that used to be storage next to the kitchen. She has a newly renovated kitchen and its so Italian country chic, I died when I saw it. What I would give to live there…

Standing here, where 9 years ago, we were in the attic of the cellar, hanging up grapes to make passito. Now will be the future common area of the house.

I spent the next couple of days playing with the children (Giulia cooks all on her own now!). My favorite memory playing music with the children! Giacamo is EXTREMELY talented!! He knew how to transpose chords from instrument to instrument and it was AMAZING to see him play. He is ridiculously talented. Completely not surprising considering his dad and his uncle are musicians! I so wish I had a recording of us playing together, but I will just keep that in my own memory!

In the treehouse (top photo from 2013; bottom photo 2019)

I managed to squeeze in an evening with with Lorenzo, a dear Italian friend I met when I was in Patagonia in 2015. We hadn’t seen each other since then but have kept in touch and the astonishing point that he actually lived and worked in the next town over from Cupra made it so it would be absolutely ridiculous if we didn’t meet up. Valeria and Lisa thought it would be fun to host a dinner called “All of Sandy’s Favorite Things” because apparently I am the running joke of getting so excited over food. 🙂 Corrado made his perfect rissoto, Valeria made one of her amazing cheese and vegetable pastries, Lisa brought Burrata, and Lorenzo brought Pannetone (because all the gelato shops were closed for the winter in Cupra). It was a fun evening exchanging stories and integrating new Italian friends with my family.

I spent a day working in the cellar with Lisa it was great to see as far as the wine making, bottling and packaging process goes..that hadn’t changed. Still labeling bottles individually one by one! And packaging them by hand 🙂 Love it.

Catching up with her was mind blowing in so many ways. Hearing about how her life has changed, her hopes and dreams…It was like listening to the life I almost could have had. Lisa and I both discovered La Distesa at the same time during our first harvest in 2011. She was working as a sommelier at a New Yoork restaurant, and she yearned for a simpler life and to be a part of the winemaking process, not just selling it in the restaurants. After she fell in love with La Distesa as I had, Lisa started the massive process to actually live in Italy with a proper working visa. Corrado and Valeria agreed to sponsor her! Long before I knew I would end up moving there as well (but trapped within the circumstances of a tourist visa). Seeing what a nightmare process it was I never asked if they could sponsor me as well. It would be highly unlikely anyway to have two Americans at their small vineyard anyway. But anyways, two years later Lisa finally had the working visa she needed and she’s been living it up in Italy…she even got her own car..learned how to drive a manual (a true rite in Europe I feel). She lived in Tuscany for a while working at a larger vineyard but chose to return to Cupramontana because…well it’s just that magical! Corrado makes the most beautiful wines and how could you not love that place. I loved hearing her stories of everyday problems, dating life, and life at the vineyard. It made me so happy to see how happy she seemed.

The bombshell fact she shared with me that I had NO idea about was that Giovanni had a baby! My Giovanni! I couldn’t believe it I thought she had been talking about someone else. Plus I JUST saw Giovanni that day and asked him what he had been up to and he said not much and everything was the same. Except the last time I saw him he was dating someone new, which I was super happy about, but turns out since then he had a 2 year old kid! Meaning the last time I saw him she must’ve already been pregnant and they either were about to find out or were still keeping it a secret. SO CRAZY. 

My mind was spinning after that for so many reasons. I felt sad that I was so out of the loop…Giovanni and I never spoke after I left La Distesa…when I left it was hard for both of us. More for him than me. But it broke my heart too. I had chosen to end our relationship a couple months prior to me leaving…I had always struggled with our ability to relate to each other. Communication wasn’t our greatest strength. Even though on paper, it would’ve been incredible for me to fall in love with a sweet Italian winemaker, get married and live in the countryside…but for me our relationship didn’t feel right. No matter how sweet and amazing Giovanni was. In the end, I’m happy with my choices, but the overthinking side of me couldn’t help but play out the scenario of what would have happened if we had never broken up and I stayed in Italy after all. How much better would my Italian be? Would I have a kid?! I couldn’t even grasp that idea.

Ca’Liptra now in their 8th year as a vineyard has been doing wonderful! I remember the day Giovanni got the keys to his new cellar back in 2012. It was such an exciting time for him to finally have a place where he would be his own winemaker. It also meant he was doing double the work…making wine for Corrado at La Distesa and for himself at Ca’Liptra. But they are a growing business with their wine now being sold in the United States too! I am SO SO SO happy for him. It really made my heart so happy to see happily him show me around the cellar and the expanded tasting room of their vineyard. In classic form, Giovanni was interrupted with a work call and I couldn’t help but take a quick second to capture that moment on my phone. Classic Giovanni. Surrounded by boxes of wine. Always working. No body works harder than him. Now with a baby and a lady, I am so SO proud of him. I bought a few bottles from him to bring home and I am so excited to open these to share with friends.

For the remainder of my trip I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would have or could have been had I never left La Distesa. It is not something I like to do (what if scenarios KILL ME), but a lonely and empty mind can wander far and wide, despite our best efforts. It gave me a lot to think about. Despite the unease and feelings of regret I was carrying, I took note of these reactions and spent the 9 hour train journey from Ancona, Italy to Zurich, Switzerland reflecting why I was feeling the way I was feeling, trying to see what I could learn about myself in that moment to grow.

I’m not sure if I really came to any conclusion form it all. I think I felt perhaps it was hard for me to see what I’ve accomplished in that time. It seemed everyone reach major milestones and I couldn’t help but compare myself and wonder what I had to offer. Sure I have traveled over the years, made great strides in personal development, and I have had some amazing and unique career opportunities, but for me, it just didn’t feel big enough. I know that seems a little absurd coming from the girl who literally just got off an engineless tallship in the north sea the week prior to this…but somehow I was still feeling inadequate. It has certainly caused me to evaluate how I see myself and my efforts in this world. Which is good to go every once in a while. Have a little check in with yourself.

I don’t know when I will be back to La Distesa but I hope it is sooner than later. This week long stroll to my previous home was worth all the last minute efforts to get there. All that I know is that I can’t wait to see the next chapter for everyone, including myself. 

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