We are riding in a black SUV, on our way to Milan, Italy after completing a Taylor Road Show at The Musical Box in Verona. It’s pouring rain, and our driver, Stefano Bonaretti (whom I just met), is determined. “I didn’t want to eat in Verona,” he says as he passes yet another car. “I have a place in mind.” Stefano is the owner of Backline, an Italian musical instrument distributor. He distributes to music dealers throughout Italy, and has about 600 accounts across the country. Stefano has an interesting driving technique. He rules the far left lane of the highway, yet keeps the right tires of the SUV just over the dividing line of the lane to the right. He has passed every other vehicle on the highway for the last 45 minutes. It seems like everyone else is standing still. He owns the road. I glance at the speedometer and try to convert kph to mph….
Also in the SUV is our Taylor UK Product Specialist, Dan Boreham. Dan is in the front passenger seat of the speedymobile. I met Dan at a trade show a year or so ago, and though we e-mail quite frequently, this is the first time we’ve traveled and worked together. Dan lives about an hour east of Brighton, England. He is an accomplished musician who has spent most of his professional career in the music business. Boreham is a fearless guitar player with a wacky sense of humor who has worked as a session musician and a record label A&R guy. He walks with a purpose and eats and talks quickly. A true English gentleman, Dan also happens to be a world-class Michael Jackson impersonator and frequently belts convincing M.J. vocalizations. Today the lick of choice has been “Shaammoowwn.” It’s impressive considering his accent. Brilliant, mate!
After about two hours of schooling the other drivers, Stefano lets up on the accelerator. “I will show you some sights, and then we go to dinner,” he says. He takes us on a quick tour of the city center of Milan. This is my first trip to Italy, and my senses are on overload. Stefano points out a gate to the city. Walls once surrounded Milan, and some of the original gates still stand. Stefano casually explains that the gate building was probably constructed in 400 A.D. Next we drive around Sforzesco castle. Originally built to house the royal family, Sforzesco is a splendor to behold. It is in amazing condition and takes on a modern vibe with the green and purple lights that illuminate it.
“Milan is the financial and fashion capitol of Italy; Rome is all politics,” Stefano explains as we wait for our dinner to arrive. He has been a wonderful host, taking the time to explain (with passion) almost everything on the menu to Dan and me. It’s obvious that good meals and cooking are an important part of his life. Tonight’s meal is an event. Although it’s rather late in the evening, there is no hurry to order, eat or leave the restaurant. Our dinnertime is about three people from very different places getting to know one another. Three people united by music. “We Italians like to buy nice clothes and fast cars; rock & roll is not in our blood…but Taylor Guitars is very strong over here. All the Italian pop stars play them.”
After driving us through the fashion district (Dolce & Gabbana, Armani — they’re all here) Stefano drops us off at our hotel. It’s been a long day, but the energy of the city won’t let me go. I have a walk around the neighborhood and peer into various trattorias, gelaterias, bars and shops. People are out and about, enjoying the evening. I can’t understand any of the conversations. I think about our Road Show tomorrow and wonder how best to communicate the Taylor message. Sting’s “Englishman in New York” plays in my head.