My mother Franceca is 90 today
Francesca Colombini Cinelli blows out 90 birthday candles but postpones the celebrations until my cast is removed, when we will enjoy tortellini, meringues and Brunello
My mother Francesca was born in Modena where her grandfather, Pio Colombini, eminent dermatologist, was rector at the University. A prestigious role, in the second oldest university in Italy (that Pio Colombini filled with self-celebratory plaques), in a small but cultured and rich city, where all the family lived very happily. To confirm these feelings my mother has hanging in her bedroom, a photograph of the building where she was born, but she remembers with pride that <<in our Montalcino home we got electricity way before in our house in Modena>>. From the period in Emilia still today lingers in our family an unbelievable love of homemade tortellini.
FRANCESCA COLOMBINI IN MONTALCINO IN THE BOOK “IL VINO FA LE GAMBE BELLE” (WINE MAKES FOR BEAUTIFUL LEGS)
An only child my mother was brought up practically as if she were a man: she would go hunting and could drive tractors and trucks. Before and during the Second World War my grandfather Giovanni Colombini would allow her to take part in everything that happened. Most of her memories are found in the book Il vino fa le gambe belle (2005). A tale that also regards the metamorphosis of Montalcino, from being a small, florid, rural and warrior hamlet, to being a poor settlement because of the farmers abandoning the countryside and finally to becoming the city of Brunello.
My mother’s stay in Montalcino was interrupted after the war because of a long stay in Florence, a city she adores. Here went to the Istitut Français di Firenze, a secondary school where she became fluent in the language, and she still is today. She lived in the “Casa di Boccacio” where now Violante, my daughter, and her husband, Enrico live. This is where Stefano my brother and I grew up, before moving to Siena, event that coincided with the death of my Grandmother Giuliana, Giovanni Colombini’s adored wife.
GIOVANNI AND FRANCESCA COLOMBINI AT FATTORIA DEI BARBI
It was during these years that my mother began to work at Fattoria dei Barbi going backwards and forwards every day with a white Cinquecento FIAT. The search for alternatives to sharecropping farming of the past was a challenge my mother and grandfather experienced together with effort, tenacity and creativity. He was an extrovert and had grown up among academics, he loved to be surrounded by intellectuals and had a more cultured and visionary approach. She is pragmatic and is gifted with excellent organizational abilities (she, I and my daughter Violante are all dyslexic, a disability that becomes a strong point in managers) was dedicated to the operational aspects. A situation that in some ways favoured me, because my mother would refuse social events loved by my grandfather, so it was me that often accompanied him. This gave me the opportunity to understand the change in consideration towards wine and the cultivation of the land, and it taught me how to plan using long-sightedness and practicality. I think I received my true training during those trips.
My mother Francesca and my grandfather Giovanni, together, created the foundations of the present day estate. They transformed the small activities, winery, dairy, cold cut production and restaurant into today’s prototype of multifunctional farming that can free itself from the food industry and starts from the fields to reach the consumer’s tables. Practically 50 years before the European project Farm-Fork.
After the death of my grandfather Giovanni Colombini, in 1976, my mother guided Fattoria dei Barbi alone for more than 20 years giving the winery an international market and reputation. If my grandfather had had the right intuitions it was she who built the productive structures.
THE GENERATIONAL TRANSITION AND THE ART OF AGEING
The generational transition between herself and us, her offspring, in 1998, was lengthy, costly and painful. Now my brother Stefano runs Fattoria dei Barbi and I have created my own project that includes Casato Prime Donne in Montalcino and Fattoria del Colle in Trequanda.
My mother has fought for years with osteoporosis that has caused her continuous fractures and has affected hopelessly her mobility. For a person who has but the estate work at the centre of her life, it has been difficult to delegate the responsibilities and then reduce her rapport with the outside world. Limits that she tried to overcome until last year when she suffered heart failure which really exhausted her. Now she lives a serene life but is bored, every day is the same. With Covid precautions, I would visit her often until I too have had to stop because of a broken foot. Luckily (so to speak) the closure of the schools has meant that my nephew Giovanni has had to stay at home, and the presence of the adolescent together with my bother Stefano, is for her a source of comfort and company.
The celebration of my mother Francesca’s 90th – born on March 9th 1931- is postponed until I will be able to go up the stairs, and after a swab in prevention (like we did at Christmas) we will be able to go and visit and eat the tortellini she has promised and the meringues that I have promised her, and we will drink some excellent Brunello without fear of Covid.
Happy birthday dear mother! You are living a long and rich life and you can still give us a lot in terms of examples and advice.