A working party in Tuscany

I’ve just returned to London after three weeks in Italy. Loved every bit of it. The highlight, though, was a gathering at an eco-farm in Tuscany, organized by Pio, a renowned Italian journalist. I had met him when he interviewed me after my memoir was published in Italy.

Some six weeks ago, when Pio invited me to join him at a big ‘working party’ at the farm, I immediately said yes – of course, I never want to miss a trick. Also I only saw ‘party’ but not the word ‘working’ before it.

It took place over the May Day weekend. Upon arriving at the farm on Friday evening, Pio casually told me: “You are going to give a talk tomorrow. Everyone is looking forward to it.” “Oh, really?” I said. “What should I talk about?” “You, China, whatever you like.”

So over the breakfast the next day, I scribbled out some notes to form a coherent ‘China Story’, my life story, the changes that have taken place in China and the challenges it is facing: Covid, Ukraine crisis, the conflict with the US, ect.

It went well, I am pleased to report.

Once it was out of the way, I enjoyed myself even more. The farm is just outside Suvereto, a beautiful medieval village. The villas we stayed were surrounded by lovely vineyard. The party consisted of about 18/19 people, who are interested in Asia, Japan in particular. They are all Italian professionals, writers, journalists, publishers, illustrators and teachers. Most of them speak some English.

Overall, it was well-organized. We had excellent take-away food; we had BBQ; (people made various starters and I made a Chinese salad with Sichuan pepper oil); we ventured to the seaside; we took talks in the enchanting countryside; we had wine tasting; we danced and sang (including ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘The Internationale’ – there were a few intellectual lefties among the party goers.)

On Sunday morning, I had a little bit of ‘work’ – moderating a talk by a former Italian ambassador who recently published a book about China’s irresistible rise.

The final bit of work was an interview with Pio. Here’s the link:

https://www.ow7.rassegnestampa.it/MinisteroAffariEsteri/PDF/2022/2022-05-06/2022050651518667.pdf

All in all, the gathering was more of a ‘party’ than ‘work’, which I appreciated.

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