Working the Vineyards

Ines shares her guestbook with us filled with notes and drawings left by guests since starting the B&B in 2000.

Ines shares her guestbook with us filled with notes and drawings left by guests since starting the B&B in 2000.

Italy, Day 8

(Spoiler Alert! You might want to start with Day 1 to follow this trip from the beginning...)

The first two mornings in Corniglia we shared Beppe with only a young couple from San Francisco, Francois and Zoe. Though Francois was French, he also spoke some Italian and served as translator from time to time.

On our third morning we were surprised to finally meet Beppe's wife, Ines, as she popped into the kitchen from the adjoining bedroom quite unexpectedly. She was brimming with energy and it felt as though we were in a hollywood film where someone finally queued the "authentic, Italian grandmother" onto the set.

Ines was dressed in a long, dark skirt, floral blouse and fuzzy sweater. She shuffled around the kitchen in wonderful slippers made from German wool that she explained kept her cozy through the winters. Simply adorable.

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Unlike Beppe, Ines spoke rapidly and we struggled to keep up. She was quick to break into laughter and whether it was "at" us or "with" us it made no difference, as her vigor was warm and contagious. She told us that she was 84, six years older than Beppe, and shared that they had to be "discreet" when they dated as a young couple. They enthusiastically completed one another's sentences as they shared photos and letters from past guests with each of us. It felt good to see how much joy their guests brought them and to think that we were now part of this lucky group of travelers.

During breakfast we made plans to meet Beppe later that afternoon for a personal tour of his vineyards. At 2pm, we all met back at the B&B and Zan and I followed him down the hillside where he showed us several plots of his well-groomed gardens.

The land had been in his family for generations and he grew both olives and grapes to make oil and wine for the family. He also pointed to overgrown plots whose owners had passed over the years. "Very sad," he said in Italian and you could almost see him ache for the way things were when he was a boy working the land with his father.

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We visited a second plot of earth across the way where his beautiful lemon and apricot trees grew. We asked if these were the same trees that produced the albicocca marmellate (apricot jam) we enjoyed at breakfast each morning. "Si" he replied with a proud smile.

Back at the B&B we met Beppe's daughter Francesca who manages the properties for the family. We shared our gratitude for her parents' hospitality and explained that we had just toured their family vineyards. She asked if we wanted to see their wine cellar where they brought the season's harvest to make their wine. Um, hell yes.

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We followed them both into the family's wine "cave," as Francesca initially called it, and Beppe immediately apologized for the disorder. It was clear from how well maintained he keeps his properties and vineyards that he was a neat freak so it was a non-issue for us. Besides, we were too distracted by the large barrels of wine and jars of curing anchovies.

Francesca explained that they only make enough wine for their family to enjoy each year and that red wines were their specialty. Although they don't have the equipment to produce white wines themselves, she was excited to share that they sell their grapes to a winery in Vernazza. The winery has been using them to make a more traditional white wine that brings out the flavors unique to the area. You could feel the pride in her words and I could only imagine being part of such a family legacy.

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After our tour, we decided to wander the village once more as it was our last night before heading to Florence. I snapped pics with my phone to record the special vignettes that filled our time in Corniglia. We would have one last dinner in this wondrous place and then this blog and our memories would be all that remained. While we both knew it would be almost impossible to capture the spirit of our trip here, we couldn't help but try...