How many of you have said at least once in a lifetime: “Enough, I drop everything and move to some tropical paradise without any stress and problems!”. It happens especially during this time of the year. Summer is far away and it’s more than a month till Christmas holidays begin.
If it’s happening to you too, you should know that there are three islets called The Gili Islands, where driving cars, motorbikes, buses and anything with an engine is forbidden. They are 6 square kilometers islets, easy to completely cover by foot, bike or by a characteristic little horse-drawn cart (the horse is not a pony but a typical Gili pedigree).
Imagine a place where there is nothing to do except spending the whole day laying down on a lounger on a white beach, with such a sea that you only dare to dream in movies, with a generous barrier reef. From topwater, you can see every kind of tropical fish. They are islands immersed in the green, just one hour and half by ship from Bali: it’s a dream!
You will find the Gili Meno, the Gili Air and the Gili Trawangan that it’s becoming always more touristic and congested, even by bike.
Walking around the big road which marks the perimeter of Trawangan, there are many little places where you can eat a good roasted fish and shops where you can only buy beachwear and swimsuits. Surely, eating Indonesian food only for more than a week, it might be causing intestinal (and palatal) stress. So, if you decide to get lost in the Trawangan main market you would be able to find more familiar flavours. This just happened to me. Wandering around restaurants, one by one, I came across a familiar sign: “La Dolce Vita”.
I popped in curiously and it seemed to see a mirage, the same as the desert travelers when, from the window of the open kitchen, I saw panzerotti –known from the most as calzoni, – and focacce, just like the Apulian ones! I got closer to the desk and, hesitatant, I ordered a panzerotto. Bite by bite, I felt like I was in Apulia. My eyes were closed and I understood that, after three weeks, my mouth could have a rest and taste again.
Those dream makers are three Italians. I met only two of them, Giovanni Mele, from Lecce, the “healthy carrier” of focaccia and Giovanni Laporese, the cook.
They met at the Gilis and they decided to embark on this challenge.
How did you decide to live in Trawangan?
Giovanni Mele: “I came here almost four years ago. There was a friend from my mum who was opening a seafront hotel and she was looking for a manager. My idea was to come here and see how the situation was and what was like to manage a hotel. But she was my mother’s friend, not mine. After 10 days, I understood it wasn’t a good idea. So, I looked for a piece of land, I found it and step by step I built on it a little hotel, where we now have opened the restaurant”.
Giovanni Laporese: “I came here for holidays with my girlfriend. Her parents own a hotel here, we met, a friendship was born and the last year, talking about some projects we said “Why not opening a restaurant?” so we created it. Actually, we opened the “Dolce vita””.
But it wasn’t so easy as it seems like.
Giovanni Mele: “Trawangan is a tiny, Indonesian island: everything is harder. Everything you can see comes from other islands. In Indonesia, in theory you could be able to accelerate the procedures, but not concretely, from seeking the materials to the actual construction, to the workers and bricklayers hunt. Long story short: it’s not as professional as it should be and there are no specialized workers. So, whatever you need to do, would need to be carried out by people you must first instruct”.
Actually, Trawangan is an tiny island which developed some years ago. So, the leisure standards we are used to, that we take for granted, are difficult to achieve. Giovanni Mele, who as a structural engineer constructed some buildings in the island, explains. “Here, there’s no hot water, no solar panels, the plants are not so easy to be installed”. “When you buy a lamp, you know that that lamp will be broken after a few days. It’s a continuous stress. The first lesson you understand well here is that everything breaks!” –Giovanni Laporese says. And he explains: “Earlier, I used to get nervous”.
There is to be said that the Indonesian philosophy of life is to work in order to live, because you don’t live to work.
“I still don’t understand their way they live- the cook continues- but of course, they live better than us; this is the truth”.
“The thing is that they work just for eating, without thinking about money- Giovanni Mele reaffirms. They are not interested in money in order to be rich. Did you notice that when they’re off work, they fall asleep soon, on a ship or in the streets? That’s because they don’t have anything to worry about. It’s been four years that I cannot sleep because my head is full of worries and thoughts, while they just don’t have them; they don’t have money but because they have a different concept of poverty.”
“Here, up until two years ago, there was no Internet – Giovanni Laporese explains- and when I came, the lights were off for some hours, five or six times per week”.
So, is actually a very brave choice to live here?
“One thing is the lifestyle, but another is business. In order to live here, you need to “build up” your comforts, you have to adapt; if you are not able to do it you go away” Giovanni Mele explains.
“But we’re fine because we are friends and we have all we need for now” his partner adds.
“I feel free and peaceful here- Giovanni Mele says- even if we’re working continuously and we don’t have the same rest as we used to in Italy. We have food for now and there is the beach, even if I haven’t been swimming since September of the last year”.
Probably, having the sea around the corner and not swimming once in a while is a waste. However, their efforts led them to achieve an incredible result.
The “Dolce Vita” restaurant is an interesting place both for its raw materials and the quality of the dishes they cook, which have the same smell and taste of home.
When they decided to open this restaurant, they agreed on one thing: the meals served should preserve the quality of the Italian food. Surely, it’s very helpful the fact that they make themselves croissants, baguettes, piadine, pasta and bread as much as the idea of receiving every week cheese, coffee and sausages and raw materials from Italy.
And it’s not something to take for granted because we are on the other side of the world.