Throughout most of my adult life, the thought of Italy always held some kind of magic; an inexplicable draw that called me to its golden shores, wide fertile plains and distant mountains. I had read and seen on countless TV programmes and in books and magazines, tales of her rich heritage, glorious architecture and of towns and cities that could have stepped right out of a fairytale.
It wasn’t until many years later that my love affair truly began with Italy and has remained a lifelong passion for her culture and people ever since. Over the course of some twenty years I have championed every aspect of this extraordinary peninsula and her islands; at times hypnotic and overwhelming in her beauty, at others wild and crazy like the vespas that career around The Piazza Venezia in Rome on a daily basis!
Of course I wanted all this for myself, not wanting to share it with anyone else for fear of breaking the spell, but I came to realise that Italy has more to offer than towering cathedrals, sparkling fountains and more art per square kilometre than anywhere else in the world; for there is, as plain as the very nose on your face, a wonderful sub-culture of artists and artisans that exist on every street corner.
I suppose I took for granted the clothes I wore, the wines I would drink, the dishes I ate from and the olive oil I liberally applied to the food on my plate. This all of course had to come from somewhere and it is not until you choose to look do you find that there are still thousands upon thousands of people who still uphold and maintain many of these original skills and practices that have been passed down from generation to generation through the years.
In this age of mass production, where pre-packed, ready to wear, ready to eat and ready to drink is at our finger tips, it truly gladdens the heart to know that in Italy there are still those who believe in bringing something unique to an already flooded market.
It was during this enforced period of lockdown due to the pandemic sweeping the globe, that a dear friend of mine, Gaetano Giglio, found himself with more time on his hands then he may otherwise have wanted. Coming from Sicily, an island rich in culture and heritage, he conceived the idea that whilst people could not get to Italy, that he could bring Italy to them and thus created The Italian Company with the aim of bringing to the UK various products that uniquely reflected his country.
Although still in It’s infancy, he has managed to source a small selection of items that give a flavour of his homeland, none more so than the beautiful ceramics which hail from his hometown of Caltagirone. For me these epitomise the artisan legacy of the area handed down over the centuries and fill me with happiness and nostalgia.
I long for Italy, for its people and places that warm the heart in equal measure as much as the glorious Mediterranean sun on my face, but until such time comes it seems I must content myself with these memories. However, with the help of such wonderful people as Gaetano, who strive to bring just a little piece of Italian nostalgia to us here in the UK, I feel as though Italy is only now just a mere hairs-breath from my reach.