Sunday, March 08, 2020

Should you go to Italy right now?

Yesterday I had the idea to poll friends and colleagues in the wine trade, around the world, with the question, “Should I go/come to Italy right now?” I received a dozen or so responses, all across the board. But within hours, their answers were rendered moot. Later that afternoon, Italy announced they were quarantining 16 million people on the north and restricting travel to and from the designated areas.

So, I put on my creative thinkers’ hat and pondered “What kind of response would be appropriate, considering the circumstances and lightning fast speed this outbreak has been traveling at?”

The answer: Travel, for now, to the Italy of your mind, for as of March 10, Italy is extending its strict coronavirus quarantine measures, which include a ban on public gatherings, to the entire country.

Find a book centered about Italy, the one you’ve always wanted to read, but never had time for. You can even pretend to be on the plane to Italy, only you will sleep in your bed, on your sheets, with your pillow, and wake up in the morning without jet lag or after having eaten a gloomy airplane meal.

Now pair the book with an Italian wine, say for instance:

Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” with a wine from Piedmont. Bring out your old Barolo or Barbaresco, or if you have one, a Baratuciat or a Neretta, and drink it, and read away the hours.

Or, how about opening the pages of a beloved classic like “On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal” by Mary Taylor Simeti. Oh, how I’ve loved this book over my lifetime, and now is perfect to discover a new love for Sicily within the pages of her dazzling tome. Pair it with a heroic wine from Mt. Etna or a Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Either way, we will die like heroes or we will be victorious, as we conquer our fears and stay out of the way.

You get the idea? The important thing is to not further burden the Italian healthcare officials who are trying to contain and eradicate this developing pandemic.

Oh, I get it, you want to rush right in and hug and kiss your friends and family and you want it all to be alright and ok and right now, be over and fine. In that case, if you are still engaging in that kind of magical thinking, might I recommend a book like “The First True Lie: A Novel” by Marina Mander.

This is a wonderful read, one which I would pair with a nice beaker of Alta Langhe Brut or Franciacorta. I read this book after I met Ms. Mander and had dinner with her and a mutual friend in a Sicilian trattoria in Milan. She’s a great talent and one that Americans (and Italians) should be reading more of, especially in these times. This book hits home right now.

If you want to stay in the vein of wine, how about some of those heavy books that you couldn’t wait to buy, but have yet to read, cover to cover? I have three to recommend:

Ian D’Agata’s twin companions, “Native Wine Grapes of Italy,” and “Italy’s Native Wine Grape Terroirs.” Open those big boys up and Read.Every.Word.

And another “light reader,” Alessandro Masnaghetti’s “Barolo MGA,” an encyclopedia of the grand wines of Barolo. You might not be able to travel freely in that area right now, but you can still armchair travel and keep your inner learning channel on. Open up that book and press on.

I had a friend tell me last night, over a glass of Rossese, “This moment might be a time in which we are experiencing a fundamental change. Maybe we aren’t meant to be always up in the air, travel here and there. Maybe this is a time to think about why we travel, and how we should travel in the future.” Food for thought.

One of my friends wrote from France in answer to my initial question, “This whole mess has been exponentially magnified in its spreading worldwide by our absolute bulimia in traveling. Having to checklist a thousand cities visited a year, low cost flights every weekend zigzagging the world, or long-haul flights at the frequency our grandparents had a neighborhood dance. What if this just taught us the lesson of staying put for a while? And really is our reality that grim (before coronavirus) that we need to always be escaping elsewhere to fill in a void?”

Look, Italy doesn’t “need” you to show up and save them. We all should be mindful of the resources we could take from other people who might not have anywhere else to go, and whose life might depend on getting timely medical attention. I’ve been in more ER rooms in hospitals in Italy (and France) than I care to claim, and I know those people care about people whose health and wellbeing has been compromised. I survived several automobile accidents, and the last one, in Sicily, could have taken me out. But, they ain’t gonna kill me that easily.

For now, do us all a favor, and find another time and another way to travel right this moment. Stay out of the way. Like one of my colleagues said in response to my initial question, if you care about Italian wine, “keep Italy’s spirit alive and continue getting their wines on people’s dinner table.” Help our Italian friends, family and colleagues in the wine trade, right here, at home, in the USA. Go sell something and send the money back to Italy.

Should you go to Italy? Right now, maybe not. In the future, yes of course. And right now, you can plan that trip. Vinitaly has been rescheduled to mid-June. I’m planning on going, if the coast will be clear then. But right now, travel in a different way – use your mind – I’ve got to tell you, since I stopped the world and got off, it’s been a great ride. I don’t need to be like Zelig, everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Like my French friend said, is there some reason you “need to always be escaping elsewhere to fill in a void?”

Stay home – hug and kiss and watch over your kids. Make yourself strong, beef up your immunities. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
Real Time Analytics