Last day of our trip to Milan, and one more "activity" on the program: a meeting with Franco Balzarotti.
It was a bit daunting, we agreed to meet at a train station in the suburbs of Milan.
"when you are at the train station, phone me"
Another 25 minutes of waiting... the mist was dissipating letting the sun come through in these early hours (and i was quite happy about that because it was at the beginning of february and quite cold).
Franco stepped out of the car... we shook hands... (sometimes it is a bit like a James Bond movie... meeting someone for the first time in the middle of nowhere on a train station with only basic language knowledge)...
and Franco had the great idea to bring a friend of his who could speak english!!!
I sat in the car... feeling a bit young (32) among these experienced collectors (60+)...
Franco starts the car: "We go to Robbiati".
This was not part of the program.
Meeting Mr. Robbiati.
That meant, being able to ask any question to the manufacturer himself...
I didn't have much time... we had to catch a flight in the afternoon.
Franco parked the car... rang... an old man comes out... " ( he shortly made me think of my grandfather... same thick shirt under a thick jumper, the jacket and the scarf he kept during all our meeting. Hands and face of someone who worked hard all his life.)
We all sat in the car, Franco driving, Mr. Robbiati on his right side and me and the friend translator at the back.
Franco said in italian something like: "i have to introduce you to our friend Mik".
Mr. Robbiati answered with a smile on his face: "he is your friend, not mine".
Unforgettable. (exactly my kind of humor... later in the conversation: i forwarded greetings from Mm. Notaras to him... and with the same smile and in one breath he said: "oh, she is still alive".)
We drove to a café and spent the next hours talking...
I had brought my book of leaflets on which Mr. Robbiati was pointing out details, the patents that his father registered (some of them he was not aware of) and my timeline-chart, my first attempt to retrace the history of these coffee machines.
I had unfortunately or fortunately... or let me put it like this. There is a time for hobby, and a time for real life. I had to catch a plane a go back to real life. C'est la vie. But these hours, i will never forget.
This encounter was so surreal that, as it happened, all apprehension was gone. Only 3 weeks after, by looking at the pictures and the films i made and re-listening to the recorded conversation, could i realize and smile in amazement.
For me, it was the end of a journey... after having met the daughter of Mr. Stern in Vienna (Stella espresso machines), and the son of Mr. Simon in Budapest (Szigony Müszaki Vállalat), i could at last meet Mr. A. Robbiati (son of Giordano Robbiati but above all, manufacturer of the coffee machines i was interested in)... the loop was complete.
Since that meeting, i have kept contact with Franco... we make ourselves little "presents" ... he gives me a business card from Brevetti Robbiati, a spare letter paper, a spare badge... i send him all the documents i found, patents, business registration, my book...
Franco is very kind with me and has been so since we met. It is a great pleasure to have had the chance to get to know him and to converse with him now on regular basis.
A lot of what i know is thanks to him... and the fact he made me meet Mr. Robbiati, is something i will be in debt all my life. He kindly tells me when he is meeting Mr. Robbiati next, so i have time to forward my questions... and i usually get the replies very soon. It is a priviledge and a honor.