Being a portly (is that a good way to put it?) middle aged man, I had no hope of ever being a GoPro user (let alone a "Hero") until GoPro introduced the "Fetch" dog harness.
(Have a look at a YouTube video by clicking on the link below).
Now Annie is in training to wear the harness and once she is used to it she will take on her new role as dog photographer at La Faula!
Spring at La Faula!
The Italy of 1996 was not the Italy of today. It was the end of the Italy of barely suppressed chaos that rocked and rolled on a sea of inflationary liquidity. Laws were badly written and often not enforced. Peoples’ working lives were to be short and their physical lives long and secure. The Italian State asked for little and in return it gave the collective little: poor infrastructure, incompetent bureaucracy, bad schools and universities, appalling public services, lack of basic communal amenities such as refuse dumps. But what it failed to give the collective, the Italian State made up for by giving to the individual, and in spades. The three great gifts within the means of the State to give were the pension, security of employment and security of earnings to the employee if the employer should fail and disappear. In return the State asked for little but it rendered Italians workers unsackable, it enabled them to retire in their 40’s and it kept them in the manner to which they were accustomed (100% of their salary) for decades even if their underlying employment had disappeared.
But in an ever integrating Europe this was untenable. An Italy that had been forced out of the Italian Exchange rate mechanism in 1992 and had almost defaulted on its debts, that was tardy or non-compliant in incorporating European directives and law was obviously an Italy that would not be able to take advantage of the security that being in ever deeper integration with other, stronger, European countries offered. And the Italian model had reached the end of the line. To Italian policy makers it was obvious that Italy needed to hook itself to the European bandwagon as it was too weak to go it alone and continue to offer what its populace expected now as of right. Only fifty years before most Italians had been in abject poverty. But the Dolce Vita was a right and a religion. To go to eat and drink continuously and conspicuously was, for a people that had previously suffered terribly from pellagra, a right that now defined them. For those that had known the pain of empty stomachs and the degradation of absolute poverty enough was never enough. Italy was a populist democracy and asking a people whose belly’s had to be always full to tighten their belts was not an option. So Italy began to change. It incorporated European directives into Italian law and began the process of enforcing the laws in a more systematic and comprehensive way.
But at La Faula we didn’t know this. And neither did our neighbours and the people from the villages around Ravosa. In 1996 you were still on your own in a Frasca if you had problems. The Carabinieri who controlled us were not there to help us. They were there to enforce the writ of the State across its territory. Disputes, unless they were well out of control and there were dead bodies to deal with, had to be resolved locally. The Carabinieri were more like an occupying power than a source of security and safety.
So it was that in our first years of running the frasca we were shaken down for protection money, had to deal with the Sunday visits of a gangster and convicted murderer from Nimis with his henchmen and sainted mother, had to disarm a knife-wielding teenager who was being bullied and had to manage the non payment of drinks orders by the toughest of men who were completely dangerous and terrifying.
to be continued!
running la faula
So far, in my review of 2013 at La Faula I have covered the volunteers, the guests, the dogs, Luca and Maritza. These are all elements that together with the physical structure of the house and the grounds and environment come together to comprise La Faula at a particular point in time. But La Faula, as a living activity, exists in context and that context is formed by Italy and the Italians. Italy, the State, gives us the legal licence to undertake our activity, it restricts and constrains how that activity may be undertaken, it controls us to ensure that we abide by those restrictions and constraints and it taxes us to pay for the infrastructure and services that it currently provides, has historically provided but that have not been paid for and for the people and goods that comprise the State and who live off and from the State. This is a heavy burden for a small but willing activity like La Faula. But Italy, in all its formal aspects, is wholly dysfunctional, irremediably flawed in conception and expression and is incapable of sustaining itself as a modern State. The First World War, Fascism, the Second World War will be seen in time as the zenith of of Italian State power and organisation. From 1943, Italy began its inevitable decline, imperceptible but implacable, spurts of growth deceiving and covering the corrosive reality that Italy was consuming and not investing. The account for that binge was rendered many years ago, payment will never be made, but like a diner caught without means after a fine meal, Italy is frozen, unable to organise itself to dash into default and so forced into trying to buy time hoping against hope that something will turn up.
So this leaves the Italians, as individuals, who by themselves and as a community form the environment in which the La Faula of Luca and Paul exists. And a good environment it is too! As we are talking here about people some history is required. La Faula is the topographical name for the first small hill that rises up from the Friulano plane. Behind La Faula are the pre-Alps that incrementally become the Julian Alps. The people who lived in this part of the world were always, in their history, dominated by people and peoples coming from outside. The original Celts were subdued by the Romans, the Romans, in turn, were defeated by the huns, goths, visigoths and other northern tribes, German princes controlled the foothills behind La Faula, the Venetians took the area for the trees, the Austrians incorporated it in their Empire, the Turks briefly erupted into the Friulano plane, the First World War in Italy was largely fought in Friuli, in the Second World War Friuli was gifted as a Cossack Nation by the grateful Germans to the cossacks who had fought with them and as they fled the Allied advance Friuli became a target for Yugoslav Titoist expansion. The people that lived amongst this violence, plunder and pillage, the Friulani, were tough, closed, resourceful and resistant. And these were the people that we found ourselves amongst in 1996 when we came to live at La Faula. Many of the older people had been literally baptised by fire: as reprisals for partisan activity the German troops had burnt to the ground, Nimis, Subit, Attimis and Faedis, the villages surrounding La Faula. A civil war had broken out as the German army retreated and pro Yugoslav Italian communist partisans sought to facilitate the absorption of Friuli into Yugoslavia. In the maelstrom of violence and chaos which descended and cloaked those living in the foothills of the Julian Alps, private violence, vendettas and gangsterism flourished. When the German army had retreated, with the help of Allied soldiers, the Carabiniere established order and disarmed the civilian population. Penalties for score settling and private justice were sever. The State held the power and was jealous of it. Fatigued by war, weary of violence, and wary of civil war the people again settled down and enjoyed the economic growth, money and wealth that arrived in quantities never before seen in their part of the world. But they were all witnesses to what had happened and who had done it. They lived together peacefully, but they did not forget. They were tough, suspicious and unforgiving.
So it was that in 1996 Luca and I came to live at La Faula. We had little idea of what we wanted to do with the place apart from recognising that it had some good tourist potential. But the vineyard was already at La Faula and Luca’s father had been making wine there for some years so the obvious thing, given that in a vineyard grapes grow and must be harvested and then made into wine, was to start a “frasca” which is a small unlicensed bar from which, for limited times, a farmer may sell to the public his own wine and, in the case of our local “Comune” (municipality), boiled eggs from our own chickens! In 1996 Italy was at the apex of rule by licence so the possibility to sell wine simply by notifying the local council was of real advantage.
The frasca where a farmer sells his or her wine to the locals was an integral part of Friulano tradition. Most farmsteads had their own vines and made some wine and wine was heavily consumed, constantly and consistently, both at home and in the “frasce” which constituted a meeting place for a very large number of the local men (excluding Sundays when women and children would be brought along!).
As a frasca La Faula was immediately popular from the very beginning. I remember the day we opened. There was no direct connection from the kitchen to the bar area. We had bottled 20 normal sized bottles of wine thinking that this would be enough. But word had spread of the new frasca and we were inundated with people. Luca’s mum washed the glasses in the sink as we didn’t have a dishwasher. I was unable to serve at the bar as I didn’t speak Italian so I was in the kitchen decanting wine from 54 liter demijohns into bottles and relaying our inadequate supply of glasses from the bar to the kitchen for washing and back again. To get to the bar from the kitchen we had to run up and down a series of steps. It was a cyclone and one that was to be oft repeated as we encountered challenges for which we were not prepared.
Gradually we got a grip on the frasca and got ourselves organised. We made a lot of mistakes but I went from not understanding anything that was said to me to comprehending and speaking Italian, albeit rather badly.
to be continued …...
running la faula
Maritza has been cleaning the rooms and doing the ironing at La Faula since 2004. She was a sudden arrival as the woman who had been cleaning the rooms since we started the Agriturismo unexpectedly took ill in August of that year. Maritza, whose sister had married a Ravosa guy came on short notice to help us get through the rest of the season. She has been with us ever since. Maritza comes from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. She followed in the footsteps of her sisters who had come to Italy looking for work. She arrived just as the adoption of the Euro by Italy was exposing and punishing the country’s economic weaknesses. Italy, for Maritza, has been an experience of general economic and social decline. Luckily for us, and for her, La Faula, during this period has been in a phase of incremental and steady growth which has offset, for her, a more difficult environment in finding employment when the Agriturismo is closed.
Maritza, Luca and I are a good team. She and I are both foreigners in Italy and Luca feels like one! It can be said that we experience La Faula as a common adventure. When the Agriturismo is open, Maritza works full time with us. The day starts with Luca and Maritza’s coffee together. Maritza’s daily work programme is posted on a private page of our website so that she knows before she arrives what she needs to do. This allows Luca and Maritza to gossip about the Santo Dominican’s who live in Udine and lead colourful caribbean-style lives! Luca was born in Mexico as his father was an expatriate working in the steel industry there and Maritza’s stories remind him pleasurably of the bustle, colour and confusion that characterise caribbean and central american society.
Originally, Maritza worked with Luca’s mother who helped out by managing the linen, beds and the thoughtful touches that enhance the character of the rooms at La Faula. Now, in 2014, I don’t think that there is a single Italian, of any age, who doubts that computerisation and the internet are key to managing businesses more effectively and efficiently. But Italian culture was inordinately slow to digitise and the internet was seen as by an enormous number of Italians as being irrelevant to the way things were traditionally done and was resisted because it required working in new and unfamiliar ways. At La Faula we had our first website in 1997 and by 2004 it was fully functioning with database, forms, and message system. But the Italian way (also currently) is swathes of paper with everything written in block capitals so while digitisation seems obvious today it wasn’t a certainty that it would be easy to move from the paper based systems we had devised at the beginning and were using. Luckily, Maritza was quick to accept the internet-based tools that we developed and so we were able to manage her work programme in real time and she could organise her time effectively by being able to see in advance the bookings and what would be required of her on a day-by-day basis.
When Luca’s mum stopped working at La Faula, Maritza stepped into the breach and took responsibility for the rooms and linen. Although her workload increased markedly, she upped her game, reorganised herself and ways of working, increased her efficiency and productivity and was able to manage work previously done by two notwithstanding that La Faula had increasing numbers of guests. And, in addition to all this Maritza cleans the rooms as if they were her own.
So the 2013 season in the Agriturismo was a good one for Maritza. But when we closed, for the very first time in all these years she was unable to find bridging work over the winter. Maritza is willing and resourceful and it shocked her, and us, when she found herself at home without employment. Since 2004 when Maritza joined us, she has dreamed of working at La Faula in spring-summer then going home to Santo Domingo for the autumn and winter months. The economic depression in Italy has meant that this will now be a reality deriving though it does from necessity!
running la faula
To describe what 2013 was like for Luca at La Faula, requires a little background. La Faula was Luca’s dad’s hobby farm. As a child Luca lived some years at La Faula with his family but then they moved to Udine. As a teenager, Luca spent a number of summers on a farm in Herefordshire to improve his English and he eventually studied and graduated from the University of Stirling in Scotland. He then decided to stay in the United Kingdom which he found preferable to the chaotic and non meritocratic nature of Italy. It is true to say that if Luca had not met me he would most probably still be living in the UK.
Following the Second World War, Italy embarked on a consumption led rave fed by Marshall fund monies, financial support during the cold war by both the United States and Soviet Union, wholesale printing of the Lira, multiple devaluations of the Lira and, ultimately, borrowed money. Silvio Berlusconi was wholly accurate when he said that in countries with a lower public debt than Italy most of the debt was held by private citizens whereas in Italy, where private debt was historically low and savings and wealth high, the debt was held by the State. Effectively the citizens had the cash and the State held the debt that represented that cash. The Italian “festa” reached its peak in the 1980’s. Waves of strikes allowed workers to appropriate ever more of the (declining) wealth of the nation, businesses evaded taxes and exporters benefited from devaluations of the Lira. State workers didn’t work. Productivity was generally low. Disposable income was high. Working conditions were ever more generous. Of course the apotheosis of the good times in Italy was also the inflection point into decline but to Anglo Saxons who had suffered the disorienting and sometimes wrenching economic restructuring represented by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan it seemed as if Italians had discovered the secret of the perpetual perfect life. And not only the perfect life but in an undeniably beautiful country with a great climate, a riveting history and delicious cuisine. It naturally followed that there were in the 1990’s an explosion of books such as “Under the Tuscan Sun”, “Italian Neighbours” etc. in which english speaking people recounted the wonderful adventures of inserting themselves into and sharing this Italian reality in which the foibles of the Italians were presented as charming and attractively exotic!
So it was that when Luca’s dad, who was coming up to retirement, asked Luca and his sister, who was married and living in Spain, whether they wanted to do anything with La Faula they both said no but I said to Luca “you must be nuts. Your dad is offering to give you a farmhouse with vineyard in a beautiful corner of Italy and you’re going to turn it down.” And Luca said “Look, you don’t know what Italy is like. You don’t know what the people are like. It’s not a country to live in. To go there would be a big mistake”. But I’m a pushy so-and-so and my idea that we should go to La Faula and see what we could do there prevailed and we went.
It is true to say that the Italian way of being which includes slyness, mendacity, corruption, influence peddling, nepotism (obviously), obfuscation, gratuitous desire to see others done down, malice and envy amongst other things impacts profoundly on Luca in a way that it doesn’t on myself, a foreigner who sees the Italians as another (and stranger) people. But Luca loves the outdoors, the countryside, animals and birds, gardening and growing things so the agricultural side of La Faula was to his complete pleasure.
La Faula consists of two independent activities: grape growing and winemaking and hospitality. As for all businesses in Italy, at La Faula Luca and I may only undertake those activities for which we are licensed and overarching our particular licences are the rules applicable to our type of business imposed by national and regional laws. When the Agriturismo sector was being developed in Italy, it was strongly resisted by the hotel sector which saw Agriturismi as a competitive threat. To hobble Agriturismi and blunt their threat to hotels, it was decided that Agricultural tourism would be a secondary activity to agriculture and so the majority of the earnings of a farm containing an agriturismo must come from Agriculture and the time invested in hospitality must always be less than the time invested in farming. Failure to respect these rules risks fines, declassification as a farm and suspension or cancellation of the business’s licence.
The problem facing Agriturismi is that the rigidity of the regulatory matrix conflicts with economic and factual reality. In Italy, the high costs of production, labour and bureaucratic compliance in a globally competitive market is forcing wineries to grow, increase production and constantly improve their quality. Growing good grapes, making great wine and then selling it is a laborious and capital intensive business that requires high levels of agricultural and oenological skills, constant positive cash flow and a dedication and commitment that is more than full time. Likewise, offering hospitality that is more than just holiday bungalows, requires accommodation stock of the highest quality, cooking skills, computer and internet skills, cutting edge organisation, long hours and dedication to keeping guests happy and satisfied.
When we came to La Faula I felt that Luca and I had no advantages at all in the winemaking business and so we should focus on hospitality where our lack of experience was less of a disadvantage and where the combination of our experience and language skills and the striking beauty of La Faula would give us a competitive advantage in the market. My idea was to create a kind of charm hotel in the Italian countryside of the type that I had stayed in in France. Of course this was not to be as the land of La Faula was zoned exclusively for farming and there was no concept in Friuli of hotels in the countryside and so there was no law which would allow such an activity to take place using farm buildings on farmland. What there was, however, was a new law creating Agriturismi which allowed for derogations from the laws and restrictions regarding zoning and land and buildings use. An Agriturismo licence allowed farm buildings to be used for accommodation and the cooking and serving of food therein and so there was no other choice than to become an Agriturismo.
The problem that La Faula faces is that both the Agriturismo and the winery, as they develop, are requiring increased dedication of time and constant improvement but because of the way the law and our licence are structured we are unable to reduce the amount of vineyard we have, which would be the logical thing to do, to more manageable levels. Thus, we find ourselves with more vineyard than we want or need but, notwithstanding this, when we grow grapes they still have to be good and improving and when we make wine it still has to be good and improving - and saleable - and the Agriturismo must offer guests an exceptional experience without exception. The heaviest burden falls on Luca, who principally follows the vineyard at La Faula, as the vineyard requires a massive dedication of time and resources in Spring-Summer and this is the time that the Agriturismo is also at its peak.
So 2013 was for Luca a wonderful year because he had a partial respite in the vineyard. One of our neighbours needed top quality grapes for his top quality wines. He agreed with Luca that he would harvest the 2013 grapes but he wanted to be sure that the grapes were up to his standards so he undertook all the vineyard work except for spraying the grapes with copper sulphate which Luca did with our bulldozer. For the first time in years Luca was able to enjoy the summer in the Agriturismo without the pressure of summer pruning of the vines, cutting of the grass in the vineyard and on the banks, plucking the leaves from around the bunches of grapes and the numerous other jobs that a vineyard requires during its growing season.
in a quiet moment, Todd gets his birthday cake!
Maritza’s sister’s daughters first communion celebration (Maritza cleans and maintains the rooms at La Faula).
So far in my review of 2013 at La Faula, I have considered the volunteers and the guests. So this leaves, to visit, the dogs, Luca, Maritza, the lady who does the cleaning and, finally, but probably most decisively, Italy in whose web of structures, permissions, prohibitions and taxes, La Faula is permitted to operate.
I am writing this in the “fogolar” room, the small room that was formerly dedicated to an open hearth for cooking and heating surmounted by a large decorated hood into which the smoke rose and exited through a chimney at the top. The “fogolar” while subject to much romantic Friulano folklore, was the miserable way to harness fire by a poor and metal-scarce people. Old people who experienced the fogolar as children have only disagreeable memories of smoke and soot. Luca and I also had long experience of the fogolar, which we would, in shared moments with friends, light and sit beside. Smoky rooms, smoky clothes, doors and windows open on freezing nights were inevitably the result so last year we inserted a fine Jotul wood stove that permits me to sit beside a crackling fire with the head of Annie the border collie on my lap.
When Luca and I arrived at La Faula we determined that having dogs would be a part of our experience here. First, we had the large white maremmano dogs, Minnie, Barty and Spotty. When they got older we got the border collies, Nellie and Hector and although Nellie is dead we live with three of her and Hector’s offspring: Anna, Fritz and Rett. It is all too easy to anthropomorphize the dogs we live with and see in them traits that we identify with as humans. But I think that at La Faula we see things differently. It all started with the maremmano dogs. This breed of dog, that is the same as the Pyrenean sheep dog, is one of the original European sheepdogs. In Italy they were used to protect sheep from the wolves. In central Italy humans have always coexisted with wolves and they still do. Shepherds were poor and before the early 20th century, without rifles or shotguns. In the face of a wolf attack the shepherd could do little but retreat to a hut leaving the maremmano dogs to defend the sheep and drive off the wolves. Thus maremmani dogs were selected for their reliability and capacity to act independently of their human master. They are amazing dogs because they only recognise a pack hierarchy consisting of other maremmano dogs. Human beings, are never their masters, but can be their equals if the humans are respected.
We didn’t know all this when we got Minerva, our first maremmano dog, and mother, eventually, to Spotty and Barty. We wanted a maremmano because we had seen these great, white dogs with the sheep during holidays in the Apennine mountains of central Italy. We got Minerva and while she was just out of being a puppy she sliced off the top of the ear of my young niece who had just seconds before arrived to visit us for Christmas with her parents, my cousin and his wife. I think that it was our second year at La Faula, we were remaking the kitchen, everything was dusty with masonry dust and disorganised and my poor niece was in the pediatric ward after having the top of her ear (cleaned of masonry dust) reattached by a specialist surgeon. Then there was the wait of 10 or so days to see if the ear had taken (it did, luckily), the notification by the hospital of the dog attack to the local public veterinary service, holding the dog in quarantine in case she had rabies and deciding if the dog was a menace needing to be destroyed. It wasn’t a very good start to the dogs at La Faula!
In the end the dog wasn’t destroyed because she was eating her dinner when in the confusion of the family’s arrival the child approached her. She hadn’t bitten my niece but had spun her head around with her mouth open and a sharp tooth had cut clean through the soft tissue at the top of the ear. At this point we didn’t have the Agriturismo but had a little winery bar where we sold wine by the glass to the locals. We loved Minerva, the dog, and realised that we would have to get a grip on the situation. Reading about these dogs, I understood that Minerva would not automatically defer to me as a kind of top dog but that I would have to engender respect in her and make her understand that certain behaviour, such as biting was a no-no! When one is younger, everything seems possible and that with will one’s ends can be achieved. I set about training Minerva to accept that if she let someone remove a wonderful, cooked, pigs trotter from her bowl she would get it back plus a treat for her good behaviour. With strength of force, I made the dog understand that I would not defer to her, that I would be persistent and unremitting and that aggression would not be accepted. I taught her that she had not to fear but to accept sudden movements and being manhandled. It did take time. As I write this I remember that the very first thing that I had to do was make her obey me and this involved getting her to come when she was called. At the beginning, coming to me when I called her was considered a complete optional by Minerva and so the two of us spent hours where I would call her, she would stay placidly sitting, then eventually I would pick up her 65 kilos and carry her to where I had been standing. It was only when Minerva accepted that her impassivity would not win-out that she began to respond to me and to my commands.
And so it was that our relationship with our first dog, Minerva, developed into one where the dog had to respect certain rules but was otherwise a free member of the La Faula team. This was crucial to keeping a rustic dog, bred for open spaces, in an environment with lots of people coming and going. Minerva, who died of old age, never harmed another person and she gave birth to the wonderful dogs, Spotty and Barty who were an integral part of La Faula, the Agriturismo, for the first 12 or so years.
As the Maremmano dogs aged we started thinking about succession and realised that we were getting older and having 65 kilo dogs wasn’t such a good idea, especially when they had to be taken to the vets or looked after when ill. So we got Nellie the border collie, and then some time after, her mate, Hector. Nellie had five puppies and we kept three of them: Anna, Fritz and Rett. Border collies, of course, are a completely different kind of dog to the Maremmano. Border collies come genetically primed to be trained and are ready to take instructions from their master. But the same training regime applied. The dogs had to be trustworthy even when out of our sight. By the time we had the border collies we had many families with small children at La Faula and so we had to be sure that the dogs would not bite. As the border collies are small and can be victims of cruel or thoughtless behaviour on the part of children, we encouraged them to show aggression by snarling and showing their teeth when they were being harassed but again biting was a no-no and it proved quite easy to train them to move away from situations that were bad for them.
So it is that the dogs of La Faula are dogs and not people. But they are a key part of the La Faula team. We only see them occasionally during the day when the Agriturismo is in full swing as they pass their time with the guests. Many guests bring the dogs little treats so Anna, Fritz and Rett associate people staying at La Faula with food, caresses and, sometimes, kisses (the big test as to a dog’s trustworthiness).
In 2013 the four dogs that we have fulfilled their function of Faula canine hosts in fine form. They were friendly, played with the kids and showed loyalty to those who return and who they now recognise as friends. It couldn’t have been any better.
To be continued!
a falcon sits on a cypress tree at La Faula!
I wrote at the beginning of my review of 2013 at La Faula, that what makes La Faula are the place, the volunteers, the guests, the dogs and Luca and myself. With the volunteers of 2013 we couldn’t have been luckier. And also with the guests.
We started the Agriturismo season, as ever, with Nichole and Nello from France. They have been coming to La Faula every spring and autumn since the year 2000. We commence every season of the Agriturismo with them and we close every season with them likewise. Of course, over the years we have become friends and we have shared life’s ups and downs together. They are older than us and we have learnt from them the undeniably positive message that it is possible, even as one ages, to stay alert and interested and to find interest in the lives of others. From this springs empathy. And we have benefitted from their experience and wisdom as they have illuminated, from their own experience, some of the twists and turns that probably will await us as we proceed down the road of life!
In fact, as we look back, for Luca and I began this Agriturismo in 2000, we realise just how much we owe people who came to stay at La Faula and who gave us more than we could have hoped to have been given. The guests who showed patience, forbearance and humour at the beginning of the Agriturismo’s life when we we utterly overwhelmed by the enormity of running a small hotel, and a vineyard, and tending cattle and making wine. There was a period when running the La Faula kitchen followed on from a day of Luca and I working in the vineyard. Guests knew where dinner was going to be served but never when! Here I must mention a time when the first course was eventually served at 9.30 p.m. but we found the guests at their tables hilariously drunk at they had imbibed freely of the wine while they waited! Another time when a group of guests went for a long walk and found themselves followed by our then young maremmani dogs Minnie, Spotty and Barty. As part of the walk was along a road, the men in the group removed their belts to make improvised leashes! As I write this I think of so many wonderful guests and times that we have shared with them. The great rabbit escape comes to mind when Luca’s rabbits escaped and Corbinian and Johanna tracked them down and caught them all over the garden and put them back in the cage only for them to escape again through an almost imperceptible hole. There are so many, from the guest who designed the images of the dogs we use on the aprons and table mats to Franca, a girl from Wiesbaden who sends the dogs a Christmas package and a card that remembers those dogs who have passed on.
Having a place like La Faula, it is very hard to be cynical about human nature when we see, every year, so many wonderful and generous spirited people. People who have patiently tolerated our experiments in ways of managing and operating La Faula. People with small businesses of their own who have shared their own experiences with us and allowed us to attain strength through the commonality of shared experiences. Guests who have told us what we could change and improve. It is true to say that La Faula as it is today carries the hue of the people who have stayed in it!
And so it was that 2013 saw a wonderful collection of La Faula guests. As I have written, during the wet spring, everyone made the most of what there was and this positivity lifted the place up and in some way made the stay worthwhile even though the sun was hiding! And then the perfect Italian summer arrived and the openness and friendliness of the couples and families staying at La Faula made something that was intrinsically pretty good even better. Luca and I work like dogs at La Faula. But when things are going well La Faula is a little bit of paradise. And to call a bit of paradise, even a little bit, home, is great fortune indeed! So for those of you who are reading this because you have stayed at La Faula: Thank You!