After an exhausting day of sight-seeing in Florence, down a long, narrow street, Beth and I found an inviting and quaint, restaurant just opening for the evening. A handsome, smiling man, gallantly invited us inside to dine. He offered us a table in the corner and Beth and I dropped bonelessly into our seats, weary and exhausted. The restaurant was soothing and covered in red and white checker table cloths and the arch to the adjoining dining room was weathered and authentic. It was here that Marco and Rafal introduced themselves,and the restaurant, La Madia, and proceeded to give new meaning to Wining and Dining.
First, Marco invited us to select a wine, and then he proceeded to explain the region the grapes were grown to make that specific wine and the flavors we would discover inside, he was right. He then recommended another delicious bottle of wine, (small bottles), based on our first choice and this was the beginning of the most truly sumptuous meal that Beth and I have ever eaten in our lives. Rafal checked in frequently, making further suggestions about our choices, as he served other tables and explained the dinner specials with intelligence and flair, to other grateful patrons.
Both, Rafal and Marco’s smiles were bright as they expressed in word and deed how much pride they took in their jobs and how much passion they found learning about Italian food and teaching people about wine and in the process using that same information to shape their futures and fulfill their dreams. Beth and I delighted in each bite, savouring every delicacy from dinner straight through to an artistic display of desserts that bedazzled our senses and jolted our taste buds, ending with a cappuccino that was truly perfection in a coffee cup.
Rafal is from Russia and he is in Italy to soak up all that he can about his passions wine, food, and running a restaurant so that he can fulfill his dream of one day opening a restaurant , with his father, a chef. Rafal loves working with people, and his creativity and happiness shows through his bright eyes and mischievous smile. I would travel to Russia or wherever he opens his restaurant, to sit and talk with him again. He is funny, stylish, animated and he shares his joy with you so completely and honestly, that you feel like co-conspirator in his happiness.
Marco is from Poland and he has also come to Italy to learn all that he can about the wine making business. He and his girlfriend worked at a nearby castle in Tuscany, for over five years. It was here Marco learned about making balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and about growing and harvesting of the grapes to make wine, as the castle owners had been doing for generations. His wish is to fulfill his life-long dream of opening a wine school where he could teach people about the different grapes and the wines they will produce, and the nuances and tastes of each wine from different regions in Italy. Believe me when I tell you that I could sit and listen to him talk about wine all day. His approach is like that of a master story-teller, his words are organic, descriptive, and unpretentious as he dazzles with his endearing smile and soulful eyes.
As Beth and I ate, drank and laughed with Marco and Rafal, we found that we shared this wonderful, soulful connection. Each of us are pursuing our dreams, incorporating our passions into our new careers, and following unconventional paths to carve out our path and find our niche. We seemed, intuitively, to recognize one another as fellow dreamers, daring to step out on a limb, and live boldly and fearlessly. It felt like we had known them forever, like we were kindred spirits. We learned so much about one another in a short amount of time and yet, it seemed like we had known each other for a really long time. They seemed to Beth and I, familiar, only that couldn’t be possible, right, we’d only just met that night.
We spent the entire evening eating and chatting with Marco and Rafal. We shared our philosophies for following your dreams, pursuing them with grace and determination, not solely for the almighty dollar, but for your soul. We share the belief that family, good friends, new and old, creativity, serendipity, travel and of course, good food and wine, are what makes each sojourn magical.
Beth and I were more than lucky that night, we had an incredible meal that we will never forget, but more importantly, we found two dear people we will always remember, for their kindness, their authenticity, their joy, their laughter, and their unending courage to follow their own lucky stars, wherever they may lead.
To have instant recognition and heartwarming chemistry with one person, is rare, but to have found two treasured people in the same place at the same time, well that is an amazing gift to have been given. I think I can speak for Beth when I say, we will forever be filled with gratitude for our new life long friends, Rafal and Marco.
To Marco and Rafal, with unending gratitude for making our adventure all the more bright by your presence, laughter and kindness.