We love animals, very much. Martilde allowed us the space and kind of life to unleash this passion. We have to be careful to keep it under control; there is a number not to be exceeded in order to take proper care of everyone.
Cats were with us from the very beginning. Martina (a lilac point Siamese) and Matilde (a calico) left Milan with us - together with the chocolate point Pindaro – and their joined names created Martilde. This is why they are both present on our logo and on the labels of our first wines, barbera and bonarda.
They were followed by many others, starting with the kittens of Matilde and Pindaro (Merlino and Morgana), some part of a dynasty, some just strays coming in and staying. A long queue of multicoloured feline silhouettes runs through our memory: Greta, Michele, Melquiades, Monica, Mattia, Martuffo, Marte, Minerva, Mercurio, Marina, Magda, Mapilio, Margot, Maestro, Margerita, Metrobio… (our cats, save a few exceptions, are liable to have names beginning with an “M”).
Unfortunately, the nearby roads brings no luck to wandering kitties; too many drivers do not care to brake for a small animal, and we missed quite a lot of them. Left by the road, or simply vanished, lost in the countryside, taken away, chased by some hunter or passing dog. Finally, we couldn’t bear it any longer and, to avoid this sorrow, confined our friends within the house, drastically cutting down their number.
Morgana, called the witch (see the namesake wine), great huntress, born free and determined to stick to her life, has been the last of outdoor cats. She died of old age, after a long and happy life, more than 16 year old.
With us there is now Mantissa, our third Siamese (a blue point) and two of her kittens: Manfredi and Medea. With the father a striped oriental, one is a seal point Siamese and the other a black oriental.
Three of these cats in a closed environment equal to shredded carpets and sofa covers and a demanding company to say the least. They have a despotic character and an autocratic approach, but we love each other very much.
Dogs arrived very soon, during our first summer at Martilde. Gelo and Gaia were two maremmano shepherds, who gave us a lot, and the pleasure of discovering and appreciating the best aspects of this ancient Italian breed. Self sufficient, clever, making no claims, happy with the care we offered, they came with us on holydays and during long walks. Gelo duly followed his role of guardian, and Gaia was a sweetie.
Instead their son, Geppo, unveiled for us a darker and more difficult side. A strict and often lunatic keeper, he has always been strongly defensive of his charges, even when not really necessary. After having left indelible marks on Antonella’s hands and our hearts, he died in the first days of March 2009, after 14 and half years of life together. A painful farewell, which we had to reach with sadness, recognizing his right to a free and dignified exit, just as his canine life had always been.
Nina was a little stray (she came to us with a broken leg after being run over by a car), whom we took in and nursed with a certain initial reluctance. We were hoping for a foster house. We did not want a fourth dog and were not used to small sizes. She was bony, hunchy, gloomy and mistrustful; difficult to imagine a life with her.
Instead this tiny traumatized thing revealed an iron will, with a fine intellect and a remarkable perseverance. Nina set down a series of progressive goals, which she relentlessly pursued without loosing heart. She conquered more and more spaces in the house and our love (an on the pinot noir bottle). Now she is our confident, spoiled darling, and follows us everywhere.
Gianna is a Spanish mastiff, a massive and thoughtful girl, which gained immediately a place on a label and in our sympathies. After an initial disruptive phase, she developed a quiet discreet personality, with some space left for play.
Best part of the day is spent sleeping in some shady or sunny corner (depending on season), but at night she is patrolling the place, careful of whatever noise comes from the dark.
After Geppo left, she became sad finding herself all alone outside, and we contrived to find her (and us) a new friend.
Gillo is the new guy. He is also part of the mastiff family; his ancestors come from the Spanish side of Pyrenees. So he is almost Gianna’s cousin, a bit bigger, with a longer coat, and livelier and quick moving. When we brought him home, march 2009, we showed him to her like a toy; he was a woolly ravishing puppy and followed all the time, trying to emulate her. But this lasted little; Gillo grew at such a surprising rate, you could almost watch him getting bigger.
Now the puppy is a sturdy companion with which to play rough mastiff games, mostly based on overthrowing each other; better watch your knees if you happen to pass by. Gillo is a lovely cheerful dog, who, despite his size, would like to be closer to the inhabitants of the house, cats included. Unfortunately this doesn’t go well with his natural restlessness and a certain degree of drooling. He is still very much aware of the undisputed supremacy of the ladies of the house.
Zaffo, a stallion from the Murgia region (Puglia) came with us at Martilde when he was about 4 years old, and he and Antonella were still trying to get acquainted and trustful in each other. Together, they explored all of the surrounding hills, and many summer evenings they were back at dark. His son, Diluvio, was born at the winery, giving us the wonderful gift of a “family” foal. After more than 18 years, Zaffo left us, with the memory of so many hours and deep emotions shared; a gaping hole in our life. During the years, many of our animal friends died, and this sorrowful price is what one has to pay for the joy of their love and company.
But loosing our Tato was a heartbreaking pain, like if a part of us, free and secret, had gone forever.
We like to remember him during his escapes through the vineyards, when he liked to stop letting us get near and then trot away a few paces, or dart in the opposite direction: his favourite game. It was beautiful to watch him and his son running free, black silhouettes streaking past the green of the vineyards
Diluvio, is now an old horse himself. He was born with “a problem” in one leg, which makes him a bit wobbly, and it has never been ridden. He is enjoying a happy retirement, pampered, and in a flat place. He lives in Milan, at Bollate penitentiary, were they created a structure to teach inmates to take care and communicate with horses.
Tygo was, unfortunately, a shooting star in our life, and a great loss. But he left us a great gift, which was getting to know the Friesian breed. It was thanks to his memory that we searched for and found Bram.
As, after such a long time, Antonella was looking for an elderly horse, quiet and well trained, we came back from Frisia having bought a little stallion of 5 years, barely ridden.
But Bram has a big kind heart and, with time and perseverance, he got to used to us and reciprocates our love.
- All the others and the Condo
There have been many other animals: the sheep Clementina and her daughter Olivia (the white wonder of a newborn lamb! astonishing), the henhouse with chicks, geese, ducklings and hens with an overwhelming maternal instinct. Occasional guest like porcupines, little birds fallen from their nest, young hares without their mother, who got nursed in our bathroom… And there is quite a crowd which lives usually here, like us. Pheasant and rabbits, who have an hard life during hunting season; grass snakes and other harmless reptiles; lizards by the pound; deer, foxes, weasels; the boars whose prints you can find on the paths (and damages in the vineyards!); different insects (nasty bugs, green mantises, yellow and black butterflies and ingenious spiders) and several birds.
Starlings, sparrows, goldfinches, robins, cuckoos, swallows, magpies, hawks, chickadees, partridges, doves, crows, hoopoes and others.
Some birds have created the “condo”. It starts in autumn: gathering preferably on the two poplars in the courtyard, or on the sycamore tree in the garden. It is time to migrate, and they probably discuss and argue about the better route to follow. As in all these occasions, the basic rule is the nobody must agree with anybody else, but all are engaged expressing their opinions at top voice. Even if you stay inside, quite a distance away, it is impossible not to take notice.
From time to time, the entire condo storms away in a huff, gathering new grumpy members to raise even more the level of conversation.
We adore the “condo”, noisy but fun, and we are happy to find it on spot, after each vintage.