Ciao, TEMPO Madison Members!
I begin my September message with the word “ciao” as I just came home from two weeks in Italy last night. This month we will learn about re-engaging with travel during--and hopefully someday after-- the COVID pandemic. At our upcoming luncheon, I’m excited to hear from Tania Burke, President and Founder of TREK Travel as she provides us her perspective on how the travel industry has been impacted by COVID-19 and getting back out to travel the world by bike. I also want to highlight that TEMPO Madison has its own Traveler Group which meets the first Monday of each month over lunch. I hope to pop in for one of their gatherings very soon.
For those of you who do not know me well, one thing I live for is European travel, particularly Italy. My husband, Chris, our children, Jackie and Henry, and I try to make it to Europe annually. COVID hampered our 2020 plans to celebrate my husband Chris’s 50th birthday in Tuscany with friends and family. As we rebooked our trip for this August little did we know we’d be “threading the needle” being allowed into and home from Italy right before travel restrictions might begin anew. One of my major observations as we ventured from Venice and Lake Como in the north to Tuscany is that Italians follow their pandemic guidelines pragmatically; they wear masks indoors and they’ve created a “Green Pass” that allows you to dine indoors and enter museums as long as you show proof of vaccination or have a recent negative COVID test. We felt as safe as we could be.
If there is one thing I’ve learned from travel abroad, in my opinion, is that it is about more than just visiting a foreign place as an outsider looking in. It is about, and this will be no surprise to my fellow TEMPO Madison members, making connections with the people you encounter. Now, that can be pretty hard when you do not speak the language and really only interact with locals when dining, shopping and taking in the cultural sites. Connections do happen, though when you least expect them.
We befriended Franceso Maramai two years ago on a previous trip. Franceso and his parents own Osteria del Borgo in Montepulciano, Tuscany. Francesco runs their wine club. Franceso is genuinely warm and gregarious. As we fell in love with Franceso, his food, wine and hometown, we ended up becoming his first U.S. wine-club members. While we stayed a week in Montepulciano this year, it was Franceso who connected us with his very gracious friends who gave us tours of their small wineries. Life in Tuscany, however, is not all back to sunshine. Franceso shared with us tales of how he and his parents barely hung on during their two lock-downs last year. Even today, his staff is about a quarter of where it needs to be. Franceso waits tables while his father makes the Tiramisu. Just one week ago, both of his chefs injured themselves, and they struggled with the tough decision of whether or not to stay open or close for good. Lucky for everyone, they managed to find temporary help to stay in business. His story echoes what so many Americans have gone through during this pandemic. As I recount this story, a flood of emotions runs through me as I recognize a man, his family and friends, living thousands of miles away from Madison and yet, they have so much in common with us. Seeing one another’s humanity is what travel is all about.
Our family hopes to soon host Francesco in Madison, so he can tour our country and bring his stories and wine to our friends. Further, our Sicilian Italian heritage is making it possible for Chris, the kids and I to become Italian citizens. It will be a years-long process, but we hope to continue bridging the gap between our two countries, cultures and peoples. Maybe our children will work in the EU someday, pick up the Italian language and continue learning and sharing with one another.
Make September a great month and here’s to your next adventure, when you are ready to take on travel once more.
Elaine Rich, President