We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Ann McCoy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary Ann, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
I think it was my desire to meet people and learn about them that helped me find what I love doing and that is being with people through tourism. I’ve been living in northeastern Italy for many years and when I arrived I noticed how few English language schools were in the area and how very expensive they were. This gave me the idea to teach English, my native language, and the English and American cultures. I started out by visiting the towns and villages nearby and talking to the city Mayors and other representatives. My aim was to learn about what was needed in the area as far as English language learning because at the time the borders towards the East were opening up fast and the need forEnglish as an international language was important. I opened a language school with the sponsorship of one of the main rural communities where furniture factories were working well. I remained in the area and my school grew to where we were teaching not only English but French, Spanish and German also. I was meeting and learning about people from all walks of life. This business put me in contact with many people who were later important for my interest in tourism and pushed me to open a Bed and Breakfast in my large family home. B&Bs were not present at the time in the Italian northeastern corner of the region Friuli Venezia Giulia. I began traveling round the region from mountains to sea with a small team I put together informing people on how to open a B&B. This again put me in contact with so many different people with different views and needs. As years have gone by I have been able to use the contacts and knowledge of the region, traditions, and culture I learned through these contacts to share and enjoy with my guests who come from all over the world and stay in my B&B. I feel fortunate for all the contacts and friends I’ve made from the first years teaching English and every year since. Sometimes it’s the people we meet along our way that show us the way to reach what we love to do and make it a business.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I like to show and teach people how to enjoy the Italian culture, through their 5 senses. I’m very creative so it’s not the normal sort of tourism that I hope my guests come to my B&B for but for a real knowledge of the the authentic Italian life. I enjoy teaching my guests how to cook real Italian homecooking while showing them life as Italians and not tourists. I tell my guests about herbs and old recipies while we pick herbs in my garden then add them to sauces and much more. I want my guests to have the true Italian experience by smelling the aromas and experiencing flavours of foods and wines. I enjoy helping my each and every guest find the right sort of day trip and add legends or short history details to enhance their trip. I’m sure that through stories and legends that have been told and retold over the years, a visitor can get a true feel of a country and its people. My garden is a place where children come to hear stories told by the trees and flowers and where I hope my guests will find a relaxing corner that they will remember along with the Italian culture I share with them. When I teach English as a second language I do the same and always add notes of culture, traditions, music, food, and geography to help my students not only learn the language but also ‘feel’, ‘taste’, ‘hear’, ‘smell’ and ‘see’ the life of those who speak English.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When friends come to visit me in this corner of Italy I make sure to fit in a day trip to the mountains. I take them to visit Auronzo di Cadore, Misurina and Cortina d’Ampezzo which are in the Dolomites, a beautiful chain of mountains, part of the Alps. I’d prepare a lasagna and a good bottle of wine and take it along for a special picnic by the lake. On our way home I’d stop at one of the very many family restaurants that specialize in traditional foods. Another day we’d go to visit the Miramare castle in Triest, visit the city then drive across the border into Slovenia and maybe even drive further down the coast into Croatia and spend the night in Rovigno. The following morning we’d head back going through little villages where we can taste local cheese, wines, and other specialties. Once back home, I’d have a cooking session and make ravioli or some other sort of pasta and pesto or ragu. In the evening I’d take my friend wine tasting to Luigino, my dear friend’s winery, and let my guest have a tour of the winery and the vineyard then stroll through the piazza in the village and visit friends or dance in the piazza if there is a festival that day. On another occasion, I’d take my friend to meet a Giacomo who is a mosaic artist and watch while he makes one of his masterpieces and I’d ask his wife to show us her elaborate tombolo lace and traditional embroidery for which she is well known. I’d arrange for my guest to try out his or her creativity at a ceramic lesson with Catia, a lovely ceramic teacher and artist. After our visit with these local artisans, on our way home in the evening I’d like my friend to enjoy prociutto tasting in the hills in the village of San Daniele. maybe we could even have a tour of the prociutificio and watch as the hams are rubbed with salt and herbs then hung to cure in cellars. On a Saturday morning we could visit the open market and I’d show my friend the typical friuts and vegetables and see the cheeses and fish that are so fresh and beautiful you just want to bite in right then and there. My friend would hear the voices of the vendors calling out to their customers and the chatting of people happy to be together on a nice sunny morning. For sure my friend would find lots of items to buy and take back as souvenirs or to savour and take back home as extra pounds round his or her waist!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My daughters have been my number one encouragement and support. My eldest daughter, Gessica was not only a great helper while I was working but she helped write invoices and keep my accounts in order while I had my language school. My younger daughter, Jennifer, was always enthusiastic about playing hotel with me and helping me with guests, bookings and writing out reciepts when needed. Both my daughters made it possible for me to work long hours while supporting and encouraging me all the way.
Facebook: Bed and Breakfast Jenny’s Garden
I took all the pictures, Mary Ann McCoy