Radio Silence Broken Revisited

by Mill Benard

What newlyweds and vagabonds have in common is their proclivity to fall off the map—for leisure, for space to breathe without judgment, for peace. Their simplicity of presence alludes to prior months of twists and turns, sleepless nights, and good stories. Everyone who meets them sees the tales in their eyes. In the past 24 months, we’ve found ourselves somewhere between the honeymooner and the pilgrim, caught up in our mutual wanderlust and ambition, telling our stories to the wind and the people we meet. And since you’re tuned in, we’ll tell you as well.

The red roofs of Italy

Red, red roofs.

We are back in sleepy Umbria, with the sandal dust of Roman vacationers still hanging in the air and the abating September sun warming us without scorching. But we came here by way of France. We love France for the same general reasons we love Italy: food, wine, art and nature. We saw Giverney, the home of Monet, and it opened our eyes to some of the crown jewels of human achievement. The French are masters of exploiting—in the best sense of the term. They mine cobalt and make blue like you’ve never seen it. The Eiffel tower, above all, points to what nature can provide but where it cannot go. The hedges make right-angle turns, and lead you into manicured gardens of chrome green and cadmium yellow.

Monet's Gardens in Giverney.

Monet’s Gardens in Giverney.

But we had an itch no Gaul could scratch. Both these countries know food and art, but they are so very different. Italy knows blue, but not neon. The French know the lead white of the Sacre Coeur, but cannot bear chipping paint. Italians build monuments and wait for them to be seasoned by time and vine. What one culture calls entropy, the other calls maturation. The difference between “faded” and “pastel” is a matter of which side of the Alps you find yourself. Similarly, Italian food is crafted without being concocted. It just is. Fettunta, toasted bread scraped with garlic and slathered with olive oil, did not need to be invented—it simply needed to be cherished, to be put on the same pedestal as chateaubriand with bernaise sauce. The illumination and splendor of France made us proud to be human, but the timeless splendor of Italy makes us thankful to be earthlings. And since we are in Italy, writing about France, you know where our allegiances lie.

Since purchasing la Fattoria del Gelso three years ago, we have developed business models and battled bureaucracy and by all accounts we’ve come away victorious, or at least more festively plump. But our time in France helped remind us that the hardest part of our future work has already been done by forces that came before us. Our task is to curate. Our charge is to explore, to fall in love, and to tell a good story. Come visit us.