Gordon Matthew Sumner wore a favorite black and yellow striped shirt so often, that a friend finally blurted out that he looked like a bee. The nickname stuck. You might know him better today as Sting.
We’ve always enjoyed his particular style of jazz/rock, and have waited for him to show up in concert in our neighborhood for a decade or so. That day finally arrived, and it was well worth the wait. He played at a place called Piazzola sul Brenta, which is a town not far from Venice, Verona, and Padova. Piazzola was never a particularly noteworthy destination until they decided to develop the magnificent 16th century Villa Contarini (attributed to the famous architect Andrea Palladio,) into an unbelievable concert venue. Now, it has worldwide acclaim, and for very good reason!
Following Tuesday night’s show, we were so engaged in the estate, the quality of the performance, and the power of the lyrics, that we decided to conduct our own little behind-the-scenes investigation into what makes Sting tick. After all, he’s just about to turn 61 and is still out there impacting the world in a very big way. Maybe there’s something we can learn from him. We called it our own little “Sting Operation,” to better understand the man beyond the stage and the music.
For years, we have heard about his villa in Tuscany, but nobody seemed to have much specific information about it. So, off we went that next morning, determined to find the place, heading south to the town of Figline Valdarno, in the Chianti, which we felt had to be close. The story we read went like this: He and his wife Trudie bought a 16th century villa and farm over a decade ago, with the intention of creating a clean, wholesome place to raise their six kids—organically! And that’s exactly what they did! They now run a quiet little shop somewhere in the area where they sell their own wines, olive oil, vegetables, honey, berries and much more . . . organically. And that’s what we were searching for on that summer day in July.
After several hours and a few wrong turns, we found ourselves on a relaxing, shady country lane. There, on our right was an old converted farm house with a hand-painted sign over the door—Tenuta il Palagio. That was it! We thought we recognized it from the picture, and the name matched—however, il Palagio is a fairly common name around these parts. We were the only ones there since it was just about time for the typical Tuscan mid-day lunch shutdown. However, Alena, who ran the shop that day, was more than happy to treat us to sample after sample of their tasty goods. We enjoyed various honey, collected in the woods, or from chestnut trees, or from fields of flowers. We sipped a little wine and each had a small spoonful of pollen for good health. We walked out with far more in our shopping bag than we had anticipated.
Since they started production, Sting and his wife Trudie have expanded their property to the other side of the road as well, making the farm much more than a small family operation. And even though their villa isn’t open to aging groupies like us, we were able to take a peek at the historic place on the hill beyond the trees as we slowly drove along the road. Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful!
For us, the day was delightful. We broadened our view of the artist that we’d seen on stage. He’s so much more than his collection of songs might suggest. He and Trudie have long been known for their charitable work around the world, as co-founders of Rainforest Foundation. Trudie’s independent work includes being an ambassador for UNICEF. But no matter how famous and successful, there’s something telling about how a person really lives their day to day, and what they stand for when out of the spotlight.
It meant a lot for us to catch that glimpse of the “family farm,” in the rolling Tuscan hills—the peaceful nature of the place, and the local history coupled with their focus on organic and natural living. For sure, none of us is perfect, and Sting is surely no exception. However, there’s something reassuring when, based on our observations, we find that under all of the lights, glamour, and driving rhythm of the bass guitar, there’s just a regular person, simply wanting to make a difference in the world.
We like Gordon and Trudie more than ever . . . now!