ROBERT ST. JOHN: Friendships are what make you a rich male | Way of living

On March 12, I was scheduled to fly to Spain with my wife, my finest buddy, his wife, a television production crew and 25 journey visitors. We ended up going to lead our guests on a 10-working day trek that was to start out in Madrid and conclusion in Malaga with Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville in amongst. The movie crew was to shoot period 6 of our television software, “Palate to Palette.” The company had signed up for the guided tour to all of the locations I fell in enjoy with on my journey to Spain in 2011.

They very first traveled with us to Tuscany. Everybody relished that journey so significantly they claimed, “Where are we heading future?” So, we took them to Venice, Bologna and Milan. At the finish of that tour they posed the question once again and we took them to Rome, the Amalfi Coastline and Naples. In between all of that, we embarked on a detailed tour zigzagging and crisscrossing my property point out of Mississippi.

When these trips began, I understood I would have exciting turning folks on to the individuals and spots I have met on my travels, but I never expected to make these significant and lengthy-long lasting friendships with the people today who joined us. That was these kinds of a wonderful bonus. We figured we will have to be undertaking one thing right due to the fact these buddies kept seeking to pack their baggage and indicator on to take in and drink their way by these exciting and stunning locales the way we do it on a locals-only foundation.

Spain was not the only tour that we were hosting this year. The itinerary had us leaving Spain at the conclusion of March and heading about to Tuscany where ended up we would guide a few individual groups as a result of that aspect of the environment that we have arrive to know and like so well. This drop, we were being scheduled to vacation with a few extra teams, one to Rome, the Amalfi Coastline, and Naples, and the two many others to Tuscany.

And then 2020 happened, and we regretfully had to terminate or reschedule all seven of those excursions.

Two of the spring Tuscany teams were rescheduled to just right after Thanksgiving of this yr which, previously in March, seemed like a secure bet. We were being informed by some that we could slow the spread in 30 days, and lots of believed this factor would most likely be cleared up by Easter, then Mother’s Day, then summer, then fall. But by Might we eventually figured that pretty much anyone was erroneous about almost almost everything to that position and seemingly no a single – not even the health care gurus – could predict the foreseeable future of this certain virus and its effects on the planet. It’s not looking good for the two groups we rescheduled for immediately after Thanksgiving, but my fingers are crossed, and I’m hanging onto a thread of hope, while creating contingency ideas about the future few months.

Traveling has been this sort of a significant section of my existence more than these previous a number of many years as I have observed myself expending a few months just about every yr in Italy. Recently, I put in some time considering these earlier a number of several years and the time I have invested overseas and came to an unexpected epiphany. European vacation presents attractive architecture, remarkable heritage, and great foodstuff, but what I might value more than anything at all is the folks.

I have built such shut and lasting relationships with the Europeans I have met over the last 10 years that individuals relationships seem to trump all of the common factors – structures, palaces, museums – we initially traveled to Europe to see. It is all through these bizarre times that I miss out on my mates the most. I overlook Annagloria and Enzo the homeowners of the villas in which we stay. They had been the first Italians we fulfilled on our first vacation to Tuscany several years in the past. We have gotten to know their children nicely. We have hosted them more than below.

Numerous of these close friends started out out as people today we hired to carry out a endeavor. But they immediately turned near pals. Marina Mengelberg, a Dutch lady who life in Tuscany, began out as a tour guidebook for our visits to Siena, but she and her two great young children have pretty much develop into a element of our family members in excess of the earlier couple a long time.

It is the decline of visits to my mate Dario Cecchini’s butcher shop and Fabio Picchi’s Teatro del Sale. It is the pizza in the smaller cafe in Tavarnelle. But it’s also the persons we have come to know who do the job in those people spots. I skip seeing our pal Paolo operate himself ragged attempting to provide every single table in his restaurant though his mother slowly but surely and methodically cooks all of the foodstuff in her little very little kitchen.

The surroundings is environment-course in every single corner of Italy, but the drivers who have been working with us for decades these types of as Fabio, Gabriele and Federico make it fun and even extra significant. I am prepared to see – and shell out time with – all of these men and women once again.

In the conclude, I think it is often the people today. The cafe company is not the food stuff business enterprise, it is the folks business. The exact same goes for journey. My grandfather made use of to say, “A loaded guy has his first greenback. A truly rich gentleman has his to start with pal.” He also employed to say, “You can judge a man’s wealth not by the sizing of his financial institution account, but by the depth and breadth of his friendships.” When I first listened to those statements as a teen, I imagined it was a pile of bunk. Nowadays, I know he was place on. I am a rich guy nowadays – not for the reason that I have a bunch of dollars in the bank (I don’t), but – for the reason that I have these deep and meaningful associations at residence and overseas. I am genuinely blessed.

Onward.

ROBERT ST. JOHN is a restaurateur, chef and writer. Come across his recipe for Annagloria’s Gorgonzola Grapes at robertstjohn.com.