The painting tour was going splendidly. All of the guests were pleased and none of them seemed to care that I was a novice tour leader, forced into the position by unforeseen circumstances. I quickly learned that among every group, there is always a high maintenance member, a person who demands more than most. We had one such person in our group and his constant need for attention was quite challenging. Privately, I thought of him as my "problem child", or "PC" for short.
"PC" was never quite satisfied with anything. If the breakfast buffet had honey, he wanted maple syrup instead. If the housekeeping staff left three clean towels in his suite, he wanted four. The portion sizes for the divine food served at dinner were too much food to his liking. He wanted half portions. On and on it went, with daily demands for variations from the norm. Of course, as the liaison from the group to Enrico, I was the person who timidly approached him with all of PC's requests. As the ten-day workshop progressed, I found myself increasingly asking Enrico for more and more favors on behalf of "PC". Enrico would always rant in a litany of dismay, in Italian of course, and at a very loud volume. I made a huge mistake going to Enrico with a request for "PC" as he was cooking the sauce for dinner one afternoon. As they say, "timing is everything". That also includes bad timing.
I asked Enrico if "PC" could have an additional bath mat delivered to his room before dinner. The look on Enrico's face was downright scary. His face turned a burgundy color and he started yelling at me at top volume. It ended with him throwing the wooden spoon that he was using to stir the sauce, not at me, but just over my head to the wall behind me.
I don't know what came over me. It had been a long week. Leading my first tour, minimal sleep, dealing with a stranger with whom I did not speak the same language, and making very serious business decisions on behalf of someone that I had never met, all resulted in uncharacteristic behavior for me.
In response to Enrico's spoon throwing, I took one look at the pot of sauce on the stove and promptly went over and dumped it on the kitchen floor! Enrico and I proceeded to have a food fight that rivaled any other. Eggs, flour, tomatoes, olive oil, and pasta – you name it and it was thrown in the Le Casacce kitchen on that fateful day. When there was no "ammunition" left, Enrico and I, both covered in food, sat down on the kitchen floor and laughed like maniacs. We hugged each other, declared our undying friendship and together we cleaned the very messy kitchen.
I returned from Italy to find an email from Enrico waiting for me. "Why don't you 'make' a company and lead tours in Tuscany? You are very good at this job." It did not take me anytime at all to send back a reply, "Yes, I think I will!" So, from adversity, a food fight and the support of a crazy Italian, Tuscan Muse was born. I will always be grateful to "PC" for his contribution and the flying spoon that started it all will forever be one of my most cherished possessions!