Italians have a thing about beautiful things. From hand-blown glassware from Murano, to Ferrari’s race-car power and beauty, Italy is known and appreciated the world over for its eye on design and skill in craftsmanship.
Even Italy’s historic rival recently acknowledged defeat in the world of design. The headline in French daily Le Figaro “Toutes les routes (du design) mènent à Milan,” references the Lombardy capital and its annual over-the-top furniture and furnishing fair (Salone del Mobile) as the most important event of the year for new talent, new trends and new connections.
So now, the obvious question. With so much to choose from in Italy, why in the world would we, when furnishing our cozy pied-a-terre, at Montepulciano, not imbibe in Italian intoxicating design? It’s true our live-edge dining table is Bontempi, our bovine genuine leather sofa from Maxdivani and our natural fibre linens are Busatti. But it’s also true we carted pots and pans, cutlery and cooking utensils, even road bikes across the Atlantic Ocean. The irony isn’t lost on us when, hand-painted Tuscan ceramic plates Graham bought years ago at Chintz in Calgary, were now returning to their birthplace.
Nostalgia, from the Greek words “homecoming” and “pain or ache” had little to do with our motive to bring a little Canadiana to the land of the Etruscans. The reasons were purely practical and somewhat financial. Consider the exchange rate was $1.60 Cdn to the 1 Euro when we were setting up house; practically we had more time to shop for items in the Hudson’s Bay Fur Trading Company. Every time we make the trip, a new product or item comes with us either in a commodity grade plastic bins or card board boxes. Each time the smartly- dressed agenti doganali at Customs stop us dead in our tracks as we try to sneak by with conspicious blue rubbermade containers.
“Fermatevi!” they shout in unison. And then the litany of demands and questions coming firing our way.
Customs Agent One: “Signori, passaporti, per favore.”
Customs Agent Two: “Signora, mi dica cosa avete in questi contenitori? Lei sa che è vietato il trasporto di tutte le scorte personali di latte, carne e loro derivati.”
Customs Agent Three: “E che anche le armi sono proibite e che i passeggeri che infrangono questa legge si espongono a sanzioni penali.”
This year’s haul included an outdoor pizza oven. “Not just any pizza oven,” Graham explained weeks before as he was pitching the idea of ordering this novelty from Scotland. “It’s the first outdoor oven to include a quad-fuel function, capable of running on wood, charcoal, wood pellets or gas.”
Not convinced by the technical specifications of the Unni Pro, Graham takes a culinary tactic instead. “Amore, it can reach temperatures of 500 degrees Celsius in just 20 minutes and its takes only 60 seconds to cook pizza of up to 16-inches in size. So, think of all the pizzas I can make for you, my amore.”
Flash forward to us now standing in front of the three customs agents obviously perplexed at why in the word we were bringing a pizza oven overseas when italians and not scottish invented the pizza and they have well-designed ovens that do the job quite nicely. I do my best to explain the technical features of this unique oven in this oversized box and its parts in the bins.
Not convinced, I turn up the charm, explaining our family’s italian roots and that we now have a place in Montepulciano. They start to warm up and argue the issue among themselves. Finally one of them says, “Ma sono canadesi e i canadesi non fanno mai male a nessuno.” The three of them agree on the point that Canadians never hurt anyone. This make us happy. But before they send us on our way, Customs Agent One makes us promise to toast them with a calice of the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano; Customs Agent Two asks if we know his Zio Gigi in Toronto, and Customs Agent three, says he likes pizza rustica.
(thanks to Silvana Saccomani for sharing this story!)