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Hanging around in Piedmont…

This is a reluctant summer in Europe – cool, off and on raining. Still the scene at dawn from our second floor window is everything you could want from Italy: spires in the distance on hilltops, fog interlaced with ridges in the valleys, all in all – most satisfactory.

Living differently – as one does in Italy – is the point of our travel. Yes, we see sights, but not to check them off some long list. We let them be surprises so the delight may come from something small or nuanced. We North Americans have pretty much locked up the “largest” or “biggest” of most sights. It would be easier to award ‘most sublime” to the Italian versions than to rate them on scale.

Like tomatoes. Or coffee. Today we had mascarpone and chocolate for dessert at lunch at La Fontana in Marisengo. It was, well, sublime. Surpassingly tasteful, creamy and distinctive. And also the exquisite salad. And the tiny potatoes. We were recalling our introduction to Italy by Pat Blocksom and the irrepresible Alan Shewchuk – “Shevchenko” when it comes to restaurant reservations. We are so grateful to them for leading us in. Buon vacanza – le due….

Our village to village walks string us along some remarkably fecund crops – maybe moreso because of all the moisture. But the ground is clayish, not black, so its productivity is the more interesting. And who knew that the Milan region is a huge contributor to the cultivation of rice? Coming down in the airplane, the fields glinted back – full of water – like they do in Sacramento.

Our speculations extend to the inhabitants of these villages. Everyone knows the demographic dilemma of Italy and Spain. Who is going to take over and run the place as the last of the aging children of the war pass on?

Some houses look abandoned. Some may be owned by Germans, Swiss or English. We wondered if maybe some work in Turin and return at night. Maybe the dutiful children come to maintain the patrimonio.

But these houses require owners who are reasonably spry. Even if the average aged Italian is more fit than us [on account of always having to climb or descend to go anywhere in these more vertical towns], they can’t last forever. Still you see lots of white and blue haired folks tending to their abodes. But how long can this last? Until they die or can’t do yards.

Who takes over then?

Bambinos are exceptionally rare. In the cities there are young people. In the country the best you will see are 40’s ish. Now the farmers, vintners, repair people, they are the workers. Seldom in the country do you see immigrants of the Arabic or Turkic strains, although these folks, who have kids like they’re going out of style, are mooted as the successors to urban Italy

But Italy persists. Thank God, because we get to come here to rhapsodize about the bucolic countryside, marvel at the arts, savor the cuisine, inhale the scented air, and banter with the gentle and generous folk who for years have benevolently overlooked the pathetic attempts of hordes of tourist invaders at their language.


Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

What’s Our Business?

Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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