Travel report Josje Machielsen
I travelled more than 10.000 km in the Aartsen Mini Cooper and visited over thirty partners. Before my trip, the only words I knew in Italian were cappuccino and pasta! Thankfully I took an extensive two-week course with Regina Coeli before I set off to the land of vino, gelato and familia.
After being on the road for three days, 25 hours, my stop was at the company O.P. Monte in Calabria, where I was welcomed by Vicenzo and Alessia. After this stop, I was off to Sicily.
The first Italian grapes we receive each season come from Sicily. There are growers in Sicily with whom we have worked for more than 20 years. I spent two weeks in Sicily with some lovely families (Spatarfrutta, Chessari) and visited our loyal transporter Cappello. I made great strides with my Italian during this period. During the day, I got the experience of a typical workday and in the evening I could learn a lot from the Italian food culture. In the weekend I had time to explore the beautiful area and take excursions. Besides grapes, Sicily is also famous for its blood oranges (Taroccos), I had the change to visit these fields as well with Il Galletto.
After observing for two weeks and learning about the products here, I continued my journey to the "heel of the boot", beautiful Apulia. Here I visited Orchidea and Giuliano. Two impressive companies with a completely different structure than in Sicily. Here too, I didn’t have to worry for a second. There was a schedule from early in the morning until late at night. This way, I could also optimally practice the Italian language here and learn a lot about both businesses. I drove up via the East coast, with a stopover in stunning Ancona and resumed to Trentino. Here I visited V.O.G. and ended my stay in Trentino with a visit to the Mezzacorona group. Everything is bilingual in the North of Italy; even the German language is preferred. It was also a few degrees cooler here, which is better for the apple harvest.
The final week of travelling alone has arrived, and I kicked it off at Ortofruit in Veneto; whom we have worked with for more than fifteen years. They specialize in red lettuce. They are inspirational and charming people. Everything was super organized, and I was lucky enough to explore the area with them.
I spent a day in Alegra with Guglielmo, where we saw the kakis and kiwis in production and visited two more warehouses. Again a well-organized company with a progressive view of the future.
After travelling alone for six weeks, I picked up my colleague Bart Gouw in Bologna. I told him about my travels, our inspiring partners, and standout fruit and vegetable selections. Together with Bart our focus was mainly on visiting partners of vegetables, again a new twist compared to fruit. We drove back down to the Puglia region, then to Basilicata. Via the Western coast, we returned safely and full of inspiration on Dutch soil. In Italy, I really felt that I had visited several countries all at once, with each region having its own exciting cultures and captivating traditions.