You’re expecting to hear news about my fabulous new life in Tuscany aren’t you? You’re wanting me to tell you how beautiful it is here, and how lucky I am to be living the dream in such idyllic surrounds, and how I’m working with a team of wonderful people with whom I spend my days laughing about the idiosyncratic whims of the rich and (almost) famous guests that come to stay at the hotel. Well, you know I’d certainly like to be writing something to that effect, at least so you might feel a slight pang of jealousy, but the truth is I am no longer there – I quit!
Initially I couldn’t work out when exactly it started to go bad, I was just in shock that it did, but after having the past few weeks to reflect on all that happened I think the signs were already there long before I packed up my life if Rome. Unfortunately (for me) I was so in love with the idea of moving to Tuscany and what it was going to be like that I was blinded to the truth.
As we mature into adults our morals and values deepen and I guess we (well I have at least) come to a point in our lives where we are no longer willing to compromise these. In a nutshell that is what happened at the Conti di San Bonifacio Wine Resort (incase you want to look it up). The place was like a perfect shinny apple on the outside but rotten under the surface and it left a very bad taste in my mouth.
In the short time I was there I became privy to information about exploitation of staff, both in the way they were being treated (myself included) and how some staff were not going to be paid at all for the season. They were to consider themselves very lucky just to be there, an opportunity of a lifetime apparently. Considering how much revenue the resort brought in, and how the manager and owner liked to play a game to see how much they could charge for the rooms, none of this information sat very well with me at all. There is a danger in telling your staff too much.
My relationship with my manager was another story entirely and was definitely the deciding factor in my decision to leave. She wanted to be referred to as principessa, and definitely acted like she was royalty, but was in fact just an average American that liked to live the good life by manipulated people and had no idea about what it takes to be a good manager. Don’t get me wrong, nothing really terrible happened to me out there in the wilderness, just a whole lot of little things that slowly accumulated into a larger realisation that had a voice inside me screaming Get out! (Ref. Amityville Horror – The House: [to Father Callaway] Get out!)
So just a week after I arrived I found myself, during a rare break from my seventeen hour days, tearfully packing my bags, knowing I was making the right decision but wondering why the hell I hadn’t worked it out before. Pride slightly damaged, integrity though intact. Saying goodbye to the chef Katia, whom I’d grown very fond in the short time I was there, was a sad affair as I’d loved helping her in the kitchen and quizzing her about the local food and the way she like to cook it. Ilario too, the gruff Tuscan caretaker, would be sorely missed and i’ll be forever grateful that he offered to drive me to the station early the next morning without question.
Eight hours and three train changes later, with four heavy bags and my tail between my legs, I landed yet once again on my cousin’s doorstep in the northern Italian alps. Thankfully no one has really challenged my motives and everyone has been supportive. I have to wonder though, there is so much that gets lost in translation.
I’ve been recovering from yet another bout of the flu (third in as many months) and have spent the better part of the past two weeks resting and eating lots of ‘km zero’ food from my uncle’s garden. I’ve taken to grabbing the dog Furia, who seemed to have also thickened around the middle in the past few months, and attempting the local walking tracks for several hours every day – both of us have found it hard going but have been enjoying the exercise. One day this week I was taken to a thermal spa in Switzerland where I found myself sitting in a 32˚C pool surrounded by the bluest sky and snow-covered mountains, and I spent another day cruising the small towns of Lake Como… there definitely are some bonuses to not working.
I haven’t been totally slack of course (my family has to at least see that I am making some effort to get myself employed) and have been applying for teaching jobs left, right and centre. The teaching season is coming to an end in Europe so my options here are limited but I have a few possibilities in the pipeline for ESL summer camps in the UK.
Yesterday however, while Furia and I were half way up a mountain on our most adventurous walk yet, I got a call from a school in Sicily. So it’s with pleasure and surprise today that I find myself with suitcase in hand (again) and on my way to Catania, on a weeks trial for a short-term teaching position. Flights and accommodation paid for by the school, all I really have to do is turn up and teach children and teenagers right? Yikes!