Thursday, October 4, 2012

our secret weapon

There is an older man with a sparkling smile and a light Tuscan accent that has been working happily in the Cantina every night for the past few weeks.  It was finally when someone commented that the man putting away the glasses seems to "really love his job", that I stopped and turned to grin at the whistling, happily humming, world famous Zio Uccio.

I've written about Manuel's jam-making, tomato preserving, Fiorentina porting, English speaking Great Uncle before.  In his mid-70's, recently widowed, he came to Monterosso on vacation earlier this summer, and to our incredible happiness, stayed.  He ran a bar for 30 years in his little Tuscan village, and happily shows up in the Cantina every night to bartend, talk to tables in his perfect British-english (having lived in England for 8 years in the 70's) and generally make us all happier.  The waiters, lovelorn after a summer trying to find a girlfriend, or breaking up with another, listen respectfully to his advice and wisdom.  At one point, Stefano, the bar assistant and runner looked at me, brown eyes serious, and said, "Man, I wish he was my Uncle".  Manuel's cousin then explained, laughing, "He's everyone's Uncle.  He's like the Uncle to the world".

He has, like all great older barmen, a story for everyone, and like many people, says that he really started living after he retired, but misses the work very much.  With broken words in 50 languages, he has tables of Swedish women peeling in laughter, Australian teenagers grinning, American couples entranced in a story of a well, and Italians beaming, asking whose father he is.  A table of New Zealanders in for dessert and a quick drink asked him to take a photo - then asked his name, also victims to the incredible Uccio charm.

With a sparkle in his eye, he responded "Uccio.  You don't know me?  I am known all over the world", and ended the night taking photos with them.

With Uccio and Manuel's beloved Aunt, Uccio's wife, at an agroturismo outside Volterra 2 years ago
He's the best thing that happened to the Cantina all year.

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