Today I'm writing a post I didn't expect to have to write quite yet. But like he always did, Michele's wonderful, lovely, lovely Dad, Giorgio, went off on his travels again without giving us much notice.

He had been ill for a while but I don't want to talk about that; rather, I would prefer to paint a picture of a man who truly lived.

I first met Giorgio on my first day in Milan. I had been out for the day, circling the city aimlessly and in random directions (having accidentally deviated from the relatively simple instructions left to me - that is, turn left outside the door and walk straight until you reach the centre). I was bedraggled, dehydrated and disorientated and infinitely grateful when I stumbled back upon the right road. I took the lift up to the top, with dreams of showers and plastering myself on the cool tiles of the bedroom floor, only to find that there was an unexpected man standing in the doorway. I had absolutely no clue who he was as the previous evening when I'd arrived, there had been nobody else in.

"Uh.. ciao! Sono Lucy!" I said, in my terribly limited Italian.

"Ah, l'amica di Michele? nxsjfbdhejfhndjdhejnbca2uw8ryuhfhbcdnzcbvbksdbzksjhoadjnjvdfjkfoaeirhfvjndbnfjvkhrfoiwhdnucjwkehefnirueghjvnerijkfhnvsjkdhf." Replied the man, and he stood aside as if expecting me to go into the apartment. Which I did. Not saying a word. Because I was absolutely terrified and had no idea what the hell he was saying, nor did I know enough Italian to be able to explain this. Well done me.

So instead I walked right past and sat on the sofa in the living room, trying to take up as little space as possible. There were some noises as he bustled around the house and then silence.

A couple of hours later, Michele came back to find me still hunched up nervously on the sofa.

"Is my Dad in?" he asked, slinging his bag onto the floor.

"Urm... yes?" I answered, still pretty scared of the frankly not-at-all intimidating man I'd met earlier.

Michele paced the rooms looking for him but no, he had gone out. And I had been squeezed up on the sofa like a melon for absolutely no reason.

This seems like a fairly nondescript meeting but it makes me laugh to think about it. Giorgio was incredibly shy in some respects and was very adept at hiding himself away when he could. After that first accidental meeting, I didn't see him for months and actually thought Michele lived completely alone. It turned out that he was popping off to friends' houses and his apartment down in Rome all of that time.

But once we did meet, properly, finally, he was always there. Because once he knew somebody, he was the kindest, most generous and hospitable man you could ever hope to meet.

One thing the palliative care doctor commented on to us, time and time again, was the way he never let go of his impeccable manners, always taking the time to say thank you for everything.

He was born in Budapest, grew up in Catania (Sicily), resident in Rome, living in Milan. He was a truly nomadic man with a wicked laugh and a mischievous sense of humour. To me, he was the kindest, most thoughtful person who would always think of others before himself and taught me bucket-loads about treating others well. Please pardon me for reverting to cliches for he was anything but, however he was the definition of a true gentleman.

Although, I have heard, that he wasn't always this way; and once, after suffering a friend's spoilt child all throughout a restaurant meal who continued whining once they had left, he promptly picked the boy up and dumped him in the water fountain!

When I lived in Milan with Giorgio and Michele, he was always the one preparing dinner for us, partly because he was retired whilst we went to work and partly because he was just the most incredible cook. He mainly cooked Sicilian inspired dishes with the odd northern Italian dish thrown in here and there. Yet some of his signature meals were ones brought from further afield such as his home cured gravadlax which was quite simply exquisite.

When he wasn't cooking or eating out with friends, he was pretty much either in the cinema or on a plane. Over the years he amassed a gargantuan film collection (it's honestly quite spectacular - you would have to see it to believe it!) When people come into the apartment, they often comment on the expansive film selection on the hallway shelves. Then we show them the storage boxes which are full of DVDs in slim sleeves that he copied from years of VHS purchases onto disc. It's truly worthy of a museum collection and quite awe-inspiring to be honest.

But the thing I will remember most fondly of him, is the way he would spring his new adventures on us as if they were simply trips to the supermarket. We would sit around the table, with a steaming plate of pasta with shrimps, courgette and saffron or perhaps a layered al forno dish of fresh anchovies, potatoes and tomatoes or a bowl of homemade gazpacho or pasta with ricotta and pistacchio... you get the picture.. and he would causally mention:

"Ah ragazzi, tomorrow I'm going to China."


"By the way did I mention I'm going to Germany for a month next week?"

It happened all the time and it made me laugh so much.

But now it just makes me so happy to think that he kept this up right until the end. He had his independence and he had his adventures. His life was fuller than any other I have ever heard of and a single post in his honour could never convey that. If my life is half as exciting as his, I will be happy. He worked in the Roman syndicate, as a headteacher in various schools and as a writer. He travelled around the world as if it were a matter of travelling between towns. And I want us to remember him for that.

But beyond the man I knew, he meant so much to others too. The constant stream of friends coming to visit him over the last few months and their stories and tears have shown just how incredible Giorgio was as a friend, colleague and relative. And he was Michele's Dad too. But he was more like "a cool Uncle" (Michele's words once) and a best friend. It's hard to imagine a future without him. But as Michele said, we will all bring him with us in our lives. None more so than Michele, who, in their many similarities, he will live on through.

We will miss him and continue to love him, always. But I am not sorry for us. I am simply sorry for those who never met him.

 Ciao Giorgio
9/01/1945 - 29/05/2015