We met Francesco down at Johnny’s one night after dinner. Jazz music was blaring and handsome Amerino men were wandering in and out checking out the Saturday night scene (I have always reveled at the fact that Amelia is a town with loads of good-looking men with few women in sight—I have a few theories on this but no scientific explanation). With the strong perfume of grappa wafting in the air, we began to talk about music.
Francesco mentioned that he had spent the rainy afternoon practicing a piece by Bach on his accordion. He had mentioned in passing that he played in a group but I was curious to know more about my musical olive miller. I asked Francesco how he started playing the accordion, an instrument with a strong tradition in Umbria.
When Francesco was a small child his father took him to a concert of folk music where a popular accordionist was playing. He recalls looking up towards the improvised stage and seeing this musician, larger than life, playing beautiful music there above him. He was enchanted and there was no turning back from there. Francesco told his father of his desire to learn to play this magical instrument; his father listened and proceeded to go out and invest in a concert accordion. Francesco recalls that he was so small that he could barely hold the beautiful instrument and it was not only many years later that he learned how to play it to its full capacity. He told us how the accordion was not considered a conservatory instrument and that he studied with local teachers and pursued a formal musical education despite the accordions folk status.
An accomplished musician, Francesco is part of a group that plays throughout Umbria. Particularly in the summer, Francesco’s group plays at the numerous village festivals, where the young and old come out to ballroom dance in the local squares on makeshift dance floors until the wee hours. As Francesco talks about music his eyes light up and it is clear to me that olive oil not his only passion.