Il nostro campione

Johan Ekmark

La Villa Travel AB, Stockholm, Sweden

Founder and manager of La Villa Travel. Founded in 1986 La Villa is a travel agency expert in tailor made packages for individuals and companies that wish for a special stay in Italy.

My Italian childhood

I was 12 years old when I put down my feet on Italian soil for the first time. I can still smell the scent that came to me. The sounds and the intense heat with the cicada singing in the air. I didn’t arrive like just another regular turist for a week, but had five weeks of magic in front of me. After a few days in Rome, we arrived at the estate my father had bought in Tuscany. A typical stone house with a lot of history embedded in the walls, a beautiful view over the hills and surrounded by olive trees, old oaks, figs and everything you can imagine and expect from a Tuscan dream.

The houses were not far away from the long sandy beaches, where we spent a lot of time. The seaside in that area was still very rustic with hardly any tourists, which of course made it difficult to understand what people around us were saying and even harder for them to understand us. Or, the truth is, they did not have as hard a time understanding us as we did them, because Italians have always had a wonderful way of being very open-minded and truly helpful. Especially when a few blonde kids were running around just looking lost. So, using sign language to explain, we quickly learned the Italian way of expressing ourselves.

Over the years I’ve meet a lot of people in Italy, who - in various ways - have been important to me and the most important one is signor Bartaletti. He was at our house from day one and he had always been around the estate. He was born in the area and later on, when we learned Italian, he told us stories about what life had been like on the farm when he was young and he filled the house with these stories. He had the most infectious smile and was by far one of the most genuinely pure person I’ve ever met. He loved the landscape around the house and knew everything about how to take care of everything Mother Nature produced. He taught me how to dry the tomatoes in the sun and to make the ”conserve”, the tomato sauce. He taught me how to pick the figs and to prune the olive trees. He took me to the ”frantoio” and let me see and smell the different olives to be sure we would only press ours after someone that had olives just as good as ours, in order not to spoil our oil.

Today I work with Italy and I spend about 3-4 months in this great country each year. I still love it and I’m so grateful that I can bring people here every year, people that love to hear me talk about Italy. I would never have had my stories to tell had it not been for signor Bartaletti. He showed me and my brothers the hidden Italy. The part of Italy that very few foreigners have ever experienced. A country so beautiful, so loving and so caring. I honestly think I have a lot more to thank signor Baraletti for, than just giving me the opportunity to see the real Italy; he showed me how beautiful life is.

Written by Johan Ekmark