The Italian notion of la dolce vita — the sweet life — inspires many to go searching for their own version among the vineyards and olive groves of Italy. Stef and Nico are two who have succeeded.
Some weeks ago, Stef Smulders emailed to invite me to review the book, Living in Italy: The Real Deal — How to Survive the Good Life. Stef had read my review of Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim Parks and hoped I’d be interested. Okay, why not? Never been to the northern Italian region of Lombardy where the action takes place.
I’m embarrassed to say, I assumed Stef was short for Stephanie. Wrong, Stef’s a bloke. He and husband Nico first went to the university town of Pavia so that Stef could pursue his studies in Medieval culture. Then they fell in love with the countryside – the Oltrepò Pavese is a winegrowing region — and decided to emigrate from the Netherlands and start a B&B – bed and breakfast accommodation. Their venture, or adventure, became I Due Padroni which translates as ‘the two masters’.
Living in Italy is a series of anecdotes about how they created their new home, and new life. Italy may be the land of la dolce vita, but it’s also the land of labyrinthine bureaucracy: mysterious to Italians and non-Italians alike. That Stef and Nico stayed positive throughout is a tribute to their Dutch doggedness. That they kept coming up with new ideas, despite delays and disasters, tells me they are men of vision. That they made so many friends along the way, makes me want to meet them in person.
Stef also has a great way with description:
“We were now on our way to this house, with an estate agent whose main talents seemed to be smooth talking and rally driving.”
I also enjoyed the way the book is set out: each chapter has an Italian title which relates to whichever adventure/challenge/disaster is just around the corner. Stef explains the words/terms/sayings as the episode unfolds. At the end of the book there is a glossary of Italian terms — helpful if you ever find yourself tempted to pursue your own version of la dolce vita.
As mentioned above, I’ve never been to Lombardy; after reading Stef’s description of the countryside, I want to go. Who knows, maybe I’ll drop in and say ‘g’day’ to I due padroni?
To find out more about Stef, Nico and I Due Padrone visit: www.duepadroni.it.
Images, except map, supplied by Stef Smulders