Start All Over Again

I met Maria Ventrone in Tuscany, Italy.

A couple, good friends of us, called us one day: “We are planning a trip to Tuscany, Italy. We found a charming boutique hotel, ‘Relais Villa Belpoggio’ in the Chianti area. Come and join us.” We are easy to be convinced and so was another couple, so very soon we found ourselves 6 people driving in a big Italian van from Rome to Tuscany.

Maria was the hotel manager. A local Italian woman in her early 40′s that you can’t ignore her smiley and warmhearted attitude.

In the villa there were about 10 rooms, each one differently decorated in a nice antique style. The breakfast area was in the basement, giving the intimate atmosphere of a wine cellar and on the entrance floor there was a small living area also warmly decorated, with soft armchairs and old style books all around. On the small table there, Maria always left small wine glasses and an open liquor bottle, I assumed for the guests.

Quite easily we fell in love with Maria and her daughter, the couple from the Philippines who were responsible for the service and maintenance and with the Villa itself. 

In the mornings we had our breakfast in the cellar and with no apparent reason, maybe because we were alone there or because two of our friends used to sing in a chorus, we used to silently sing soft Israeli songs, while Maria, her daughter and the Philippines were working on the breakfast. Gradually they got used to it and, guess what, maybe even enjoyed it.

After the breakfast we were on the rented Italian van, disappearing for the whole day, and arriving back late in the evening. Before we dispersed to our rooms we always stopped in the small living room, pouring some of the liqueur that Maria left for us, summarizing the adventures of the day, and for a dessert we used to sing another soft song together. This was our routine for the entire week. During the week we developed a very intimate relationship with Maria. Something in her… or in us… I’m not sure.

At the end of this magical week (parties always end) we wanted very much to give Maria a little something as a souvenir. We didn’t want to take a souvenir (which apparently we did) we wanted very much to give.  Since she was an audience to our morning singing, one of us raised the idea to devote a special song for her. In the van, one day before we left, we did our rehearsals. I’m not a good singer, nor were few of my other friends, so rehearsal was a good idea.

On our last day, after paying for the rooms we asked Maria and the couple from the Philippines to join us in the small living room. We positioned ourselves in front of them, the women were sitting, the men standing and I’m taking pictures. My friend thanked them for their warm hospitality and said that we want to sing a song for them. He briefly told them what the Hebrew words (by Naomi Shemer) are standing for:

And sometimes… the party ends,
The lights are out, trumpets wave to the band.

The middle watch kisses the third,
While we wake up to start all over, like a bird

Wake up tomorrow morning with a new song in your heart,
Listen to the flutes in the wind, as it starts.
Sing it powerfully, sing it with pain
And… start… all over again.

And… we started to sing like a chorus. Men first… women second… and the chorus together, like in old school days.  Maria was sitting and staring at us, her hands are crossed on her knees, like a school kid. As we progressed with the song she blushed, her eyes became wet and then tears dropped on her cheeks.  I’ll never forget the picture. And we only wanted so much to pay her back for her humanity and kindness.

On our way out Maria took my friend aside and told him: “Your sincere gesture deeply moved me. I was raised as a catholic and you enlightened my desire to visit Israel. Meeting you had shifted my deep love for the historical ‘people of the book’ to the people of Israel. I just recently was informed that my health condition is not so good and I hope that I’ll recover quickly. In this respect, you helped me a lot to see things through brighter eyeglasses, and maybe to start all over again. God bless you.”

Since then we are in good contact with Maria and on every New Year we exchange greetings. 
How easy and simple is it to do good things to other people… effortless…

I’m attaching Maria’s picture (while listening to our singing) in the blog and I wish her and all of us a Happy New Year.

Fireworks (71)
Shuka, Thursday, December 30, 2010


This is Maria... while listening to our singing

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