When in Rome…

 

I’d been hugely enjoying my time in Arcidosso and had already learnt so much about the food and beverage industry, which I knew would put me in good stead for my return to the UK in terms of knowledge transfer.

But part of my decision to go to work in Italy was to travel and view other parts of the country. I’d already been fortunate enough to have that opportunity through work, visiting Pisa and Sienna among other places.

I very much wanted to visit Rome, and had started making plans to go for a weekend. However, my personal planning was cut short as I was asked if I wanted to attend an International beer festival called EurHop to promote Birra Amiata. We’d be going for 4 nights and I’d have the opportunity to sight-see and explore during the day, so this fell perfectly.

The premise for the festival is to have brewers from all over the world to meet and display their products in one large hall. People with an interest in beer then attend and sample the various types of beer on offer. I was very excited to be attending, but as had been the case for my stay thus far, I didn’t simply want to observe, but I wanted to get stuck in and immerse myself in the industry. I therefore asked what role I could play at the festival, and Gennaro, the owner, asked if I wanted to serve customers behind the bar. My bar tending experience is very limited; my part time job from the age of 16 had been a waiter at a Hilton Hotel, which very occasionally involved serving drinks to take to guests in the restaurant. Those who know me know that beer pouring is not a talent of mine, and that I tended to end up with a 50/50 split between beer and head. However, undeterred by these previous failings, and very keen to continue this adventure which meant getting out of my comfort zone as often as possible, I jumped at the chance. I was also heartened by the fact that in Europe, customers seem to expect a large amount of head on top of their beer.

The car journey from Arcidosso to Rome was breathtaking. The journey itself only took 2 hours and was very direct along a motorway. If you drive along a major motorway in Britain, you may get to see a few trees and service stations, but that’s about as exciting as it gets. However, on our journey south, we were surrounded by olive trees, vineyards, and then for around 50 kilometres, were adjacent to the ocean. I hadn’t realised how long it had been since I’d seen the sea, and in these surroundings, with the sun shining down on us, it looked majestic.

We arrived at the festival, and it suddenly dawned on me how large this festival was. There were around 70 international brewers who were setting up. The first night of the event kicked off at 5pm, but we didn’t see too many customers until gone 11pm. The event closed around 3am, by which time everyone was ready to collapse. But we weren’t going back to our hotel quite yet. Instead we went to a pub where all the brewers gathered and sat down to chat, drink beer and eat spaghetti carbonara. This was certainly a first; I’d never sat down for a (sober) meal at 3.30am before! The tradition continued for the subsequent 2 nights when the festival was on.

I obviously managed to explore Rome, and stumbled across an incredible park at Flaminio metro station. The weather was beautiful, the city was picturesque – the perfect combination of new and old buildings and as always, the food was incredible.

I left Rome with a heavy heart, but had felt how much my Italian had improved, given that I was constantly serving Italian customers behind the bar…a real sink or swim moment. Learning about the industry had also taken a leap forward, but I was ready to get back to Arcidosso, where life seems so laid back it’s horizontal.

This blog is also available on the Kindle Store and you can follow me on Twitter (@benpfsmith) to find out more or get in touch

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