Tony Rocca and his wife Mira left their London jobs and moved to Tuscany, Italy. He was a journalist and she was a travel agent, but they agreed to leave city life behind, and venture into the quaint countryside of Italy. They purchased an old farm that was in sore need of repair and love with the intent of turning it into a small hotel.
Sounds easy enough right? Well, not really. The red tape, bureaucracy and mistrust of foreigners combined to make them think that they had made a huge mistake. They lived at another location while the repairs were being made and their landlady proved to be a thorn in their sides for many years to come. They moved into their hotel but whenever they felt that there had been some level of sabotage, they would look at each other and call the jealous woman’s name and say, “Mafalda.”
However, they stayed the course and after going through a host of workers, they finally got the hotel up and running. There are colorful photographs in the book to show how their beloved Collelungo looked before and after its repairs. They also worked the vineyards on their property and became grape growers and sellers of fine wine. What they accomplished is just short of miraculous!
Tony Rocca is a very descriptive writer who uses beautiful metaphors, similes and analogies as he makes his readers see and feel the Italian landscape. As I sit here listening to the late summer cicadas sing, I remember Tony writing about the sounds of the cicadas and the light from the illusive fireflies. The Italian children sang:
Firefly, firefly come to me,
I will give you the bread of the king.
The bread of the king and of the queen-
Firefly, firefly come to me.
Interestingly, our area has an unusual amount of both cicadas and fireflies this summer. One of our local weathermen talked about watching the fireflies light up his backyard the other night and he said that we have more this year because of the rainy spring.
We used to watch the neighborhood boys catch them when I was a child. They put them in Mason jars that had holes punched in the lids so the bugs could breathe. We called them lightening bugs and it was amazing to see how they could they could turn on their lights at will.
Yet, quite like the intriguing yet short-lived fireflies, all good things must come to an end. The bureaucracy and red tape eventually caught up with the Roccas and a long-standing court case brought their Italian years to an end. They had to move on from the Collelungo, but the fond memories are forever etched in the psyches of Tony, Mira and all those that they met and touched during their twelve-year stay!
Lynn M. August 3, 2019