From Romans to New Zealanders
World Globalization and the Challenges of a Business in Italy
For the first year Luca followed Franco's teachings both in the vineyard and in the winery and started attending agricultural courses. Unfortunately Franco's knowledge as a winemaker and vineyard tender was very poor and outdated vis a vis the challenges of modern viticulture and the competitive wine market. So it was that in 1996 Franco and Luca made wine in the winery at La Faula once again so as to be able to sell it in the following year. Looking back at the experience, there are many funny anecdotes, not to say tragic, that could be recounted of that 'adventure'. By the Spring of 1997 the wines were ready for sale. So Luca decided to open up a Frasca.
Frasca in Italian - Frascie in the Friulian idiom - means tree branch. It was a Roman habit to signpost with a tree branch a venue where wine was sold to drink. The city of Frascati in the Lazio Region takes its name from this habit and so does it renowned DOC wine. Despite the passing of two millenia, this way of advertising such a service still survives today in parts of Italy and Austria. Generally a small wine producer can go to his local Council and ask for a temporary licence, say of three, six months or as long as it takes, to sell his wine on the premises of his property. Once upon a time the farmers wife used to sell it in her own kitchen to any passer by or patron who wanted a glass, half a litre, a litre of wine or more.
The Frasca proved wery succesfull and from humble beginnings turned into a popular venue to have a glass of wine with a boiled egg. In fact, the licence of the Frasca only allows one to sell products that undergo a single transformation, i.e., grapes into wine and raw eggs into boiled eggs. It is prohibited to sell cheese or salami or other cured meats, because the milk and the meat have undergone several processes of transformation from raw material to finished product, hence they require authorized production premises. In that second year of activity it was clear that Luca could not manage the place by himself, and so he was helped by his mother who hand-washed hunderds of glasses and by his nice and nephew.
Paul, who had had a career first as a policeman in his native New Zealand and then as a lawyer in the City of London, transferred to Milan. He would come to La Faula on week-ends, but he could not serve behind the bar because he couldn't utter more than a few words of Italian. Even those few words were not very useful considering the fact that most of the locals only spoke the Friulian dialect and a poor Italian. In 1997 Paul gave up his job in Milan and joined Luca at La Faula.
In 1997 Luca started attending the courses organized by the Regional Authorities to become keeper of a farm-stay and applied for a licence to rent rooms for accomodation in the farmhouse. So it was that on 11th June 1997 Luca was authorised to rent out 6 bedrooms of the farmhouse to tourists. From thereon, the development of the business started. On the hospitality and accommodation side any idea and development was new because La Faula had never had that function. On the agricultural side, what there existed - i.e. the vinyard, the cows, the other crops - was initially maintained also in consideration of the fact that given the existing tools, machinery and farmhouse facilities it was impossible to even start changing anything without a thorough reorganization and investment plan.
Because Luca had brought the property donated to him by his father and Paul a conspicuous amount of money, in 1999 Paul and Luca formed a 50-50 business partnership. The result of that partnership has been a constant development of the business which still happens year after year. The first years were mainly focused on the hospitality side which yields faster rewards and the subsequent years on the improvement of the vine-growing and wine-making tecniques which only after many years are starting to yield some results.
Because La Faula is a small agricultural holding in a disadvantaged area, of necessity it needs to rely upon a mixed economy where both small business activities have to be highly specialized and of high quality. Given the current resources and economic outlook this is the only tenent upon which a business activity like this can survive. What this short history shows, in a very partial and incomplete way, is that La Faula is more than those who occupy it at any particular point of time. Luca and Paul have been privileged to have lived at La Faula in recent times. But, they know that their time at La Faula is passing and that just as it was enjoyed and developed by those who preceded them so it will be a Great Adventure for those who succeed them. Thank You La Faula!